‘I wish we could do something to spread hope and cheer.’: Family paints kindness rocks to spread love during lockdown

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“When Ontario went into a State of Emergency lockdown last March, there was very little we could do other than taking evening walks to the lake. With everything closed, the walks became something to look forward to and a way to escape the confines of our little home for an hour each night. On our walks, we would often talk about how tough the lockdown was going to be for everyone and how we wished we could do something to spread a little hope and cheer. One evening about a week into lockdown, I thought it might be neat to bring a few rocks home, paint them up with inspirational messages and then bring them back and leave them around for other people to find.

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

My husband and kids were excited about the idea and spent the rest of that evening’s walk coming up with quotes to paint on the rocks. The very first time we placed the rocks, a young couple was trailing behind us, and listening to them discover each rock as they walked along was enough motivation for my family to keep it up. We decided our little project needed a name and settled on Kindness Rocks. Figured it was only fitting as we planned to spread kindness through the rocks.  Originally we said we would do it for as long as we could or until the pandemic ended. Little did we know 400 days later, we would still be painting and placing rocks around town.

hand painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

In the beginning, my husband and kids were great at helping me to paint the rocks up and put their own touches on each one. At times, the kitchen would resemble a full art studio with rocks, trays, brushes and paint on every surface. As time wore on though, I was able to pare down the workspace to just the kitchen table and my husband and kids’ role in our little project shifted. Now they are responsible for choosing and washing each rock and carting them along on our walks. My job is to decide what to put on each one and then paint them up.

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

I am not an artist and will never pretend to be, but spending the past 16 months painting rocks has definitely allowed me to improve with each batch. I find it kind of ironic how I hated taking art in school and yet it’s what’s gotten me through the pandemic so far. Having confidence our rocks are good enough to be displayed for the public to see is something I still grapple with, but thankfully my kids and hubby don’t have the same hang-up and think that they are.

We always take a photo of each finished batch and post it on my social media page. I did it in the beginning as I was proud of the rocks we were creating and then so I could tag businesses. By doing this, it not only allowed them to know a rock had been painted in support, but to showcase that same business to friends and family.

hand painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

We have added little legs to our project, with the biggest one being our shout-out to local businesses. Last April, we saw how the lockdown was affecting local businesses and the hit they were taking by being closed or forced to move to an online service. So that’s where the idea to show love to local businesses via our Kindness Rocks came from. What started off small, with a goal of 50, soon grew until we had shown love to over 275 businesses and organizations. We started by painting rocks for small businesses that we frequented pre-lockdown and ones we knew of. From there, it became a challenge of sorts to find places and organizations we were unfamiliar with. Every time we turned around, we were discovering new little gems, both in town and in the surrounding areas. We tried to stay away from big box stores and chose to focus on small independents. You would be truly amazed at how many Kingston has to offer once you start doing a little research!

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

Our goal was to give each one a shout-out and perhaps inspire others to discover a new spot they weren’t aware of. We originally placed the rocks along a public trail in the shape of YGK and then from there into a heart shape. The rock collection grew so big we then relocated them to a spot they could be added to without worrying about running out of space. As sometimes tends to happen, rocks have gone missing from the pile and while that made us sad to think someone would take them, our hope is perhaps that business had some significance for that person. Just the thought of someone taking them and pitching them in the lake is beyond upsetting.

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

We also noticed and appreciated others were adding to the business pile with shout-outs of their own. Always nice to see another place we hadn’t thought of yet be painted up and placed with our rocks. The fact others in the community are pitching in to show their support is simply amazing. Like throwing a rock into a pond creates ripples, we hoped that by doing these rocks of kindness it would create a ripple effect and others would take notice and be inspired themselves to support the wonderful local businesses that we have here in Kingston.

hand-painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

When we winded down that leg of our Kindness Rocks project, we made the decision we could revisit this leg down the road if things took another turn towards a lockdown. We wished we could have painted one up for every business There are so many amazing businesses in our little city and being able to paint each of them a shout-out rock as a way of showing our support is the very least we could do. As the second lockdown ended, we shifted back to painting inspirational rocks and hiding them along the waterfront. We even did a few batches up for Easter with the intent anyone who found an Easter rock could take it home with them.

painted rocks- act of kindness
Courtesy of the Baker Family

As we entered into the third lockdown and businesses were once again being shut down, we decided to shift back to painting shout-out rocks. We have now surpassed 300 businesses and have a list of many more we would like to include before we wind this leg down again. We also decided this would be as good a time as any, to do some special Thank You rocks for essential workers who have not stopped working since the pandemic first began. Along with frontline workers, we wanted to include those whose jobs have prevented them from working remotely and yet without them, a lot of us would not have been able to make it through this pandemic. We included grocery stores; LTC homes; health care workers (back of house); I.T.; Pharmacies; Educational workers; Gas stations, City workers, etc. Our hope was while they may not get thanked nearly as much as they should, we were at least thinking of them and thankful for all their hard work.

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

One thing we never imagined is something so small would become so big. Our painted rocks have been featured on the radio and in print and each time someone wants to talk about them, we are always a little hesitant to do so. Even as I write this, I am second-guessing if I should. Maybe people don’t want to hear about why we started painting rocks, but maybe they do. And maybe they’ve seen one of our rocks on social media and now can say they know a bit of the story behind them. We never started this project for any sort of attention and so it never ceases to amaze or surprise us when we do garner some.

painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

Since we started putting our rocks out around town, the response has been for the most part overwhelmingly positive. For that, we will forever be eternally grateful. Not for the recognition, but for the simple fact our rocks did what we hoped they would. Bring a little joy into someone’s life, even if it was only for a moment. We have discovered there have been many others who have also painted rocks and left them in their neighborhoods for others to enjoy. There are some truly artistic people in our little city and their talents should be celebrated just as much.

Nothing about this pandemic has been easy and so having hope, showing love and spreading kindness one rock at a time is kind of what’s been helping us to get through it. Throughout all of this, we have kept one goal in mind; to show as much love and support to our great little city that we can. Our hope is that by spreading kindness one rock at a time that it has made a difference in someone’s life.   So, stand strong, keep moving forward and remember to support local.  God bless and keep safe.”

hand-painted rocks
Courtesy of the Baker Family

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by The Baker Family from Kingston, Ontario. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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