Walking around with my toddler nephew has changed how I look at the world in ways both simple and profound. For example, he is a constant reminder of love and beauty in this life. Also? There are so many construction vehicles out there! I’ve developed a habit of exclaiming “Excavator!” whenever I see one, even when he’s not around. It also often means paying more attention to what is low to the ground, the things that attract his gaze right at his own eye level.
The Kindness Rocks Garden at Unity Village is one such treasure you might miss if you’re not looking for it. A collection of painted rocks—some brightly colored, some with words, and others just featuring images—is nestled alongside Lowell’s Garden Terrace. A hand-painted sign invites visitors: “Take one for inspiration. Share one for motivation. Leave one to help our garden grow.”
This rock garden is one of many, part of a global initiative to spark joy and spread kindness called the Kindness Rocks Project. Created by Megan Murphy in 2015, the project started with just five rocks in Cape Cod, Massachusetts—and it has since spread around the world.
Rev. Jen Hutchins, founder of the Unity Arts Ministry (UAM), says the idea for the Unity rocks garden came from UAM team member Shannon Sleeper. She wanted to bring kindness rocks to Hazel Grove Elementary, a close neighbor to Unity Village, following news of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
“Before I knew any details of the tragedy, I heard someone challenging me to respond to this tragedy differently—to use it as an opportunity to change the pattern with kindness,” Sleeper told Hutchins.
UAM and local Unity churches hosted rock painting parties to send more than 600 rocks to Hazel Grove so that each student could receive a message of kindness—and choose to share it with a friend or stranger. The program proved to be such an inspiration for everyone involved that a permanent kindness rocks garden was soon proposed. The Kindness Rocks Garden at Unity Village was established the following year.
Between April and October (slightly earlier if the weather cooperates), you’ll find 20 or so rocks here at any given time. The messages on the rocks should be positive, inspirational, and family friendly. Hutchins says that they’ve never had an issue with negative messages—but if there were, the garden’s volunteers would “pull them like weeds.” These “rock gardeners” keep an eye on the supply of rocks and add painted rocks when needed. The rocks can be kept, shared, or left in another spot for someone to find.
“It’s really beautiful, the ripple effect that happens when someone is inspired by a message they see at Unity Village, and they take it home with them where it might be a blessing to someone else,” Hutchins says. To see the Unity Village Kindness Rocks Garden, head to Lowell’s Garden Terrace, near the Hotel and Conference Center, in spring, summer, or fall. To learn more about the Kindness Rocks Project, visit thekindnessrocksproject.com.
This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.