A group rolls in, one by one, to a room at the South Cleveland Community Center. The squeaking of shoes on a court can be heard from the gym across the hall as paint bottles are lined up, brushes …
A group rolls in, one by one, to a room at the South Cleveland Community Center. The squeaking of shoes on a court can be heard from the gym across the hall as paint bottles are lined up, brushes cleaned and rocks ready to go.
For a year, Kathy Jo Evitt has been piloting a weekly class of rock painting. It’s not a class in the traditional sense. There’s no lecture, and the desks are tables of shared art supplies and stories.
Evitt, with the help of her friend Linda Church, started the weekly get-together last August.
She said she was inspired by a woman in Cape Cod who left the message, “You’ve got this” on a rock for a friend to find. The movement was labeled “The Kindness Rock Project,” and has spread far and wide as others paint rocks to create a moment of happiness for someone else.
Evitt started the class hoping to inspire the same kindness to strangers in Cleveland. When a rock is painted, it is then hidden somewhere for another to find. The finder can keep the rock as a token of encouragement or pay it forward by hiding it somewhere else.
Mary Willingham uncovers a plastic container filled with paint markers. Next to her is her phone. She swipes through pictures of inspiration to draw and paint on the rocks she brought with her Tuesday.
“I just love the idea that I can make someone smile,” she said. “It’s such a simple thing.”
Across the room, Deb Woodson said people often find a rock and say, “That’s just what I needed to hear.”
“I was having a really bad day recently,” Willingham replied, “and that’s what happened to me. I found a rock and it was exactly what I needed.”
Painted rocks are posted to the local Facebook group, Cleveland TN Rocks, and the next post is usually the same rock being found and transferred to its new location. Rocks originating in Cleveland have travelled as far as Texas, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina and beyond.
The painted pebbles bring joy to their finders as much as they do their creators.
Stories about their day, about pets, husbands, grandchildren, weekend plans and recent vacations float about the room.
The conversation rolls around the tables to the tapping of brushes on the inside of water-filled plastic cups and the shaking of paint markers. Eventually, the noise falls into concentrated silence as kind words and pictures are painted onto tiny rocks for a game of hide and seek.
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