How I Gained The Unexpected Title Of 'Rock Fairy'

by Ryann Roberts
Originally Published: 
Mother and son having fun with finger paint
Scary Mommy and Pekic/Getty

Has the world ever provided you with a small sign of encouragement, right when you needed it the most? Did it feel special, almost magical?

During these stressful times, we could all use a little magic, or a least something bright and cheerful to make us smile, even for a second.

Enter Kindness Rocks.

Several months ago, I heard about the Kindness Rock Project, a pay it forward service project aimed at creating joy. The concept is simple: Paint some rocks a fun color, write an inspiring message, or a silly doodle, place in the location of your choosing, and then sit back and wait for the magic to happen.

It seemed like a fun idea, and our downtown Chicago neighborhood could always use a little more joy, so my six-year-old son and I grabbed some rocks and got to painting.

Courtesy of Ryann Robert

We had fun painting our rocks, and we excitedly put them by our front door, ready to be placed and start creating the magic; this was back in October. Our well-intentioned “magic rocks” sat by our front door for four months. Between school, work, friends, and activities, our lives never slowed down long enough for us to get out there and place our rocks. And then everything came to a screeching halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S.

It wasn’t until we were on lockdown, amid an international crisis, separated from our friends and family, that we finally got out there to place our rocks.

The day after the stay-at-home order was put into place in Chicago, my son looked up at me one afternoon and said, “Everything just feels… weird?”

I couldn’t agree more.

Courtesy of Ryann Robert

“Want to go for a walk and find places for our magic rocks?”

“Sure, I guess,” he shrugged, so we went out to make magic.

“Well, buddy, where should we put them?”

He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “I don’t know yet. Let’s just walk until it feels right.”

Being six, it felt “right” about four feet later.

“Our inaugural rock! Let the revolution begin!” I cheered as Hudson placed the first rock.

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We walked the three blocks between our house and his best friend’s house, a route we have traveled many times. This time felt different, though, because this time, we were leaving a trail of joyful rocks in our wake. We found unique places for all of our rocks, including Hudson’s three “top rocks,” which he proudly placed in his best friend’s front yard.

As the COVID-19 crisis became even more severe, the only time I emerged from our house was for my mind-saving daily walks. Maybe it was a force of habit, but I always walked the path of our rocks. They always made me smile, so maybe there was actually something to this.

One morning, I noticed the most amazing thing — the rocks had multiplied! I squealed at my son and husband the moment I got home.

Courtesy of Ryann Robert

“Guys! There are more rocks! I saw an ‘I Love Nurses,’ and three rainbows, and they aren’t ours! It’s the magic of the rocks!”

“Cool,” they replied in unison.

It was cool, and it didn’t stop there.

A few days later, on a particularly beautiful evening, I saw an older gentleman walking with his wife and dog. He seemed to be in a hurry, and she just seemed happy to be out of the house during a rare golden hour. I noticed her stop suddenly and bend over to look into one of the flower beds by the street. I watched as she smiled and shouted for her husband, who was already half a block ahead of her, to come back to see what she had discovered. He seemed annoyed, but he and the dog walked back. I saw his eyebrows knit together in frustration as he reached for his reading glasses and bent down to see what his wife was pointing to. He smiled as he straightened and looked at his wife. As they walked away together, he put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her cheek. When they were gone, I quickly crossed the street. I thought I knew what they had spotted, but I wanted to be sure.

Courtesy of Ryann Robert

Yep! There it was, one of our rocks; the purple rock, painted with the words “I Love You.”

But wait, there’s more. The next morning, I saw a woman take one. Amid a pandemic, she picked up one of our rocks and put it in her pocket as if it belonged to her. And I guess it did. After that, I started to notice all of the other rocks disappearing too, so I hope they’ve made it into the right hands.

Then it happened, confirmation that Huddy and I had started a revolution — a tiny, brightly colored one, but a revolution nonetheless. One of my neighbors sent me a link to a posting on our neighborhood blog:

“Whoever is putting those rocks with messages on them around the neighborhood–that’s AWESOME!”

I scrolled down to look at the comments and saw that my neighbors were posting pictures of magic rocks they had found. There were even a few requests for the “Rock Fairy” to hit up certain streets. My neighbors wanted to organize rock hunts with their kids, and many people offered to paint rocks to contribute to the movement.

Courtesy of Ryann Robert

My favorite comment was from a woman who wrote: “Someone left one for me right in front of my house.” She had attached a picture of one of our rocks. I love the way she said, “left one for me,” as if it were a special gift intended just for her.

By this point, my son had lost interest, but I kept painting. I upped my game, making the messages more personal. The “Hey, Girl, Hey” rock went in front of the school chicken coop. The “Your dog is cute!” got a primo spot at the dog park. The “Stay Strong” rock now lives in front of a tiny ceramic mouse wearing a jaunty hat that I had spied in my neighbor’s curbside garden. I even added glitter, because what is a “Rock Fairy” without glitter?

I start each morning walk with a pocket full of rocks. Although things feel heavy at times, with each rock I place I feel my load get a little lighter. When I finally come home, pockets emptied, I feel inspired enough to keep on giving it my best while maintaining a sense of gratitude. To me, that feels like magic.

Last night, when I went to get the mail, I noticed three beautifully painted rocks that someone had left. I picked them up and brought them inside. Finding them felt magical, as if they were meant just for me.

In this time where so many of us feel isolated, alone, and are struggling to make it through another day, while worrying about the future, I am here to remind you; you are not alone. Kindness really does connect us all, no matter the circumstances. Rock on!

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