It began with one rock.
Megan Murphy, 48, found it a year ago, while walking along Sandy Neck Beach in West Barnstable. She was looking for a little divine intervention and guidance among the dunes after a long day. Inspiration often arrived in the form of a heart-shaped stone, a reminder that everything would be OK.
That day before going home, she decided to pay it forward in the form of some encouraging words. She took a small round rock in her hand, wrote “You’ve Got This” in marker, and left it behind. A friend found it, called her, and thanked her.
That was July 2015. Since then, Murphy has written inspirational messages on thousands of rocks. On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation tweeted out a picture of a kindness rocks garden at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge. A woman set it up in May by a trail in Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. She’d e-mailed Murphy and told her that her husband had just lost his job, but she wanted to do this.
She just didn’t have any money for art supplies.
Murphy sent her paint markers. The woman did the rest.
“She reached back out and said how wonderful it was to give back at a time that she was under so much stress,” Murphy said. “It’s kind of amazing, just one person, dropping one rock at a time.”
Murphy tried to remain anonymous. She treated the kindness rocks as a hobby, spending hours painting and dropping the rocks around Cape Cod.
Friends who recognized her handwriting would try to get her to fess up that she, a life coach and mother of three teenage girls from West Barnstable, was writing inspirational messages on rocks. But Murphy didn’t want the attention. She wanted the focus on the rocks and their messages. Once she added a hashtag — #thekindnessrocksproject — to the back of her rocks, social media took the idea and ran.
Now, kindness rocks gardens can be found in at least dozens of locations around the United States and seven countries from New Zealand to Canada.
“I was very insecure about it,” Murphy said. “I’d start questioning myself and something would come into my inbox like orphanages in Haiti all painting rocks. I saw that picture of these beautiful children that have nothing, painting rocks to give to other people. That’s so awesome.”
So she built a website, and started Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts showing hundreds of colorful rocks covered with phrases like, “Be Fearless,” or “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself!” or “Live. Life. Well.” At the rock gardens around New England, she set up painted driftwood with directions explaining what to do with the rocks.
Take 1 for inspiration.
Make 1 for motivation.
1 Rule: Be Kind!
The e-mails keep coming. One mother told Murphy that her son has started leaving rocks in the front yard of neighbors going through a hard time. She also heard from a woman who found a rock after leaving her last chemotherapy treatment.
“How amazing is that one little rock, one little message can mean so much to somebody?” Murphy said. “It’s so much bigger than anything I dreamed of.”
Cristela Guerra can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.