Messages of hope: Rocks carry inspirational thoughts

Wendy Zeimer and daughters, Gracie, center, and Ella, right, enjoy time spent together when painting rocks. The rocks can carry an inspirational message or a theme.

What started as a camping activity for a Fairmont woman and her daughters has mushroomed into a area-wide hunt for rocks.

Wendy Ziemer had seen posts on social media about people painting rocks with inspirational messages and hiding them. People who found the rocks would then post pictures of their discovery, keep the stones if they held a special message for them or re-hide the rocks for others to find.

“I thought that it was a really cool idea,” Ziemer said. “All summer, I kept thinking we should start this in Fairmont, but I wondered how it would go over. Since we camp all summer long, we started collecting different rocks from the places we camp. Then we just started painting rocks.”

She researched the project, called “kindness rocks,” and learned more about it. The woman who founded the nationwide craze was inspired by the motto: “One message at the right moment can change someone’s life.”

“The original thought behind kindness rocks was just to brighten someone’s day or give them encouragement, but it’s expanded to where people just go out rock hunting,” Ziemer said.

Over their summer camping trips, Ziemer and her daughters, Gracie, 15, and Ella, 8, painted more than 100 rocks. On the backs of the rocks were instructions to post a picture with the rock on Facebook and then re-hide it.

Ziemer started a Facebook page called “Fairmont MN Rocks,” and in a little more than a month’s time, had more than 400 members.

“I was kind of nervous about putting myself out there,” she said. “Then, within the first 24 hours, there was a gal who found a rock that said ‘live’ on it. She posted a picture and said she was going through a rough patch and that the rock brightened her day. Right away, we had a success.”

Another recent post displayed a rock with the message “Always be humble and kind.” The woman responsible for the post wrote: “Found this on my walk in Armstrong. Carried it until I found a new hiding place and thought about what it said the whole time.”

“People take them to different towns. They travel with them and hide them, which is kind of fun,” Ziemer said. “I’m doing a couple of rocks that I’m sending to a lady in Georgia, who has a rock group there. She’s asked for rocks from all over the United States for her community Halloween party. I thought I’d do ‘City of Lakes’ rocks.”

Ziemer and her daughters use acrylic paint on the rocks and then coat them with Mod Podge, a glue/sealer. Both of the supplies are very inexpensive and are available at most craft, discount and variety stores.

“You don’t have to be talented to paint a rock, and it’s fun, too,” she said. “One afternoon, when we camped in Madelia, we painted rocks all afternoon. Our conversation is fun, and it’s great to just sit and chat.”

Even though the project is incorporated into social media, it has inspired people to leave their computers and venture out to parks, on trails and other public areas where the rocks are hidden.

“There’s so many beautiful parks in Fairmont, and the city does such a great job of taking care of them,” Ziemer said. “Even if you can’t get out physically, maybe you’d just like to paint rocks and have somebody hide them for you. It’s for every person of every age.

“I think that once the snow flies, we’ll probably stop hiding rocks. We’ll just gather some rocks to paint and have it as a winter project. It’s something groups can do too because it’s so inexpensive.” There have been local Sunday school classes and Scout troops that have gotten involved.

Ziemer hopes to infuse the area with more rocks in the spring.

“I’ve seen other groups that have held painting get togethers in different parks so I’m hoping to do that in the spring,” she said. “People can just bring their paint supplies and their rocks, or just show up. It’s just a great way to get to know people.”

In spite of the falling leaves blanketing the ground, people are still finding rocks, but there is one particular rock that remains stubbornly hidden.

“One of our favorite ones looked like a stick of butter,” Ziemer said. “Ella painted it and wrote ‘butter’ on it, but nobody has posted that they found it yet.” (Hint: It’s hidden in Gomsrud Park.)

Anyone interested in the project can request to be a member on the “Fairmont MN rocks” Facebook page. Once accepted, you can watch and follow the discoveries.