In today’s techno age, it seems that what we say to one another is dwarfed by how we communicate. Is it with the just-released incarnation of the latest cell phone? Do you say it with 140 characters or less? Or do uploaded videos and photos do all the telling? In a refreshing turn, some area residents have found a creative and heartwarming way to reach out to each other.
When Victoria’s Ann Simington visited her hometown in Michigan over the 4th of July, she discovered the community had a Facebook page dedicated to residents painting rocks with uplifting images or words and hiding them in public spaces for people to find. When Simington returned home, she launched Victoria MN Rocks Facebook group.
“I paint rocks and hide them to simply make people happy, spread joy, kindness and promote my city,” Simington says. “I know it will take a while for the word to get out about my group. I also hope this process inspires people to find joy in the little things and think of others.”
“There really isn't any rules,” Simington says. The Facebook page, however, offers guidelines. “The idea is simple,” it states. “If you find a rock and wish to participate, you simply relocate it to a new home. You are welcome to post your find on the group page, and when you rehome it, you may post a picture with a clue, or simply hide it again without posting. It's really up to you.”
“There are no guarantees that people will join my group,” Simington says. “Not everyone has Facebook or a phone. I know some people have taken the rocks home because they loved them, or it made them smile and decided not to re-hide them.” And that’s OK, too.
“I started off painting with my neighbor friend and painting buddy, Julie Peplinski,” Simington says. The initial batch was hidden around businesses, schools, churches, parks, trails, the recreation center, fire department, gas stations and “any place that would brighten someone's day if they found one. We left clues on the Facebook page after people started to join, hoping to get everyone participating,” she says.
Rocks are adorned with a host of subjects, including animals, nature scenes, kind words, business logos, cartoon characters, emojis, Minn. sayings, holiday themes, back-to-school thoughts, cars, feathers and “whatever inspires us,” Simington says. Her children, Kate, 12, and Drew, 9, participate, too. “They enjoy giving me ideas and try to provide inspiration,” she says. “I always include them when hiding, taking photos and leaving clues on Facebook.”
“Each rock has my Facebook group name on it,” Simington says. “I also include a pink heart in memory of (local girl) Maddison Mertz, who passed away earlier this year from brain cancer. I try to write a note about re-hiding the rock if there is room.”
Simington rarely lets two weeks go by without painting and hiding rocks or posting on the page. All the effort takes plenty of rocks, some of which have been donated. “Hartman Tree Farm and Garden Center donated rocks to us, so we painted rocks for their fall festival,” she says. “I painted rocks to promote the Classic Car show held in our town. I am hoping to put together a contest in the spring for a medallion rock hunt and provide a grand prize to the person who finds it.”
Brittany Geib and her son, Riley, 12, paint words of encouragement or feature simple drawings for Waconia Rocks. “When Laketown Chocolates added an ice cream shop to their business, we painted an ice cream cone–themed rock and placed it in front of their business,” she says. “We plan to paint rock themes that go with the season or events in the town.” The Geibs painted a Nickle Dickle Day–themed rock for Waconia’s annual event. “Someone from Florida was up to visit, and they took the rock to re-hide in Sanford, Florida,” she says.
“I enjoy the time spent with my son painting the rocks then going out to hide them together,” Geib says. “It’s given us time to spend together, not [worrying] about the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” adding that Waconia Rocks also fortifies the community. “In my opinion, the group on Facebook is what makes everything/everybody come together,” she says.
Cindy Feeney is a member of Chaska MN Rocks. “I had heard about the Kindness Rocks movement this summer through someone's Facebook post,” she says. “I learned that regional Facebook pages were popping up all over the U.S., Australia and Canada. I thought it would be great to participate because it combines, nature, art and spreading kindness in the community. I also loved the idea of having an activity for my daughter [Brooke, 10].”
Through an internet search, Feeney discovered Chaska MN Rocks, launched this past summer by Debbie Winkelman Trebiatowski. “I was so happy she took the leap and started it, and I immediately shared the page with several Chaska friends and neighbors. Then, my daughter and I got busy collecting rocks and painting,” Feeney says.
Feeney says they hide between two-to-three rocks a week. “We left several in downtown Chaska near the businesses on Hwy. 41,” she says, including one that said, “Meow,” by the Humane Society and another that said, “Dream,” by the Mindfulness Center. “The one firm rule is you cannot leave rocks in National Parks or cemeteries,” Feeney says.
Winter won’t dampen Feeney’s efforts. “The snow won't stop me from leaving rocks,” she says. “I think the group will find plenty of creative places to leave and hide rocks—and just think what we will find when the snow melts.”
Regardless of the hiding spots, Feeney operates with two objectives in mind. “My personal mission is to spread a little joy to whomever finds the rock,” she says. “My other mission is to have an activity to do with my daughter that involves creativity, art and sets an example of doing random acts of kindness.”