On Christmas morning a few years ago, a University of Richmond student unwrapped a present consisting of only rocks. After some initial confusion, her mom explained that there had been a story in the local paper about painted rocks spreading happiness to others, and she thought it would be a nice idea to bring them to UR's campus.
The artist, who spoke to The Collegian on the condition of anonymity, has been painting “Kindness Rocks” ever since.
She said that not only did students who encountered the rocks obtain the benefits of their inspirational messages, but that she found the process of painting each rock very calming, as she had enjoyed painting and crafting in high school.
The student has scattered about 65 rocks across UR's campus since January 2018, complete with intricate paintings of uplifting quotes, images and seasonal greetings. Some of her most recent work includes Valentine’s Day-themed “whale you be mine” and “we-bee-long together” messages with images of a whale and bee respectively.
Her rocks have been spotted beside trees, nestled in the soil and tucked within flower beds. Locations include outside the Gottwald Center for the Sciences, the Gateway Village Apartments and Lakeview Hall.
Senior Eliana Fleischer always smiles when she locates one somewhere on campus on her way to class, she said.
“I feel like too often we can get caught up in our own lives and so it’s nice to know that there’s someone who takes the time to paint these rocks and share them with the whole campus community,” Fleischer said.
The artist said she hoped that students who did not encounter the rocks around campus could view them online through the Instagram account @ur_kindness_rocks.
The artist has received praise through the account’s direct message from numerous students who have found the rocks and admire her work. In a recent message, a student “mentioned they were having a rough morning and seeing the rock on the way into the admissions office made their day,” the artist said.
Even through all this praise, the artist still wishes to remain anonymous.
“It’s kind of nice that these rocks just appear and can brighten up campus without any attention or acknowledgment having to go to anyone in particular, but it is nice to know they are appreciated,” the artist said.
The artist has recently received a message from a person hoping to start something similar at the person's college in Colorado. The artist said it “was unexpected, but cool that a couple of kindness rocks in Richmond could have affected someone across the country.”
Contact lifestyle writer Ryan Hudgins at firstname.lastname@example.org.