When thinking of unexpected treasures, painted rocks do not come to mind, except for Jackie Hickman.
Hickman visited family members in Pensacola, Florida, a few years ago. During her visit, she discovered her first painted rock.
The painted rocks, also referred to as kindness rocks, are designed to brighten a stranger’s day. Then when someone finds a rock, they post it on the Facebook page RockinHburg, created by Hickman in 2017, for others to see. The group now has more than 1,000 members.
Hickman has made many lifelong friendships along the way with people in the community whom she would not have met if not for RockinHburg’s activities. Hickman has painted many rocks and placed them in many areas, and two of those rocks have been relocated to other countries.
“One was taken to England and another was taken to Paris. The person who took the rock to Paris posted a picture of him holding it with the Eiffel Tower in the background. That was very cool,” Hickman said.
Bethany Moyle, a sophomore accounting major, shared her story of recently finding a kindness rock with the Northern Lights painted on it. Moyle had always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and she said that the small rock gave her hope that she would see them one day.
“It was very ironic considering it’s my dream to go see the Northern Lights. It seemed as if it was meant to be that I will be able to see them one day.” Moyle said.
Moyle said she was so overwhelmed with happiness that she decided to paint her own rocks.
“After my own experience, I decided to paint other places I would like to go to one day. I hide them around the city in hopes of someone finding one and giving them faith in their dreams.” Moyle said.
Although some people choose to paint sceneries on the rocks, it is also common for people to paint quirky ideas: food on a chipped rock to resemble a bite or even a rock in the shape of a cactus painted green.
Sophomore accounting major Anna Saucier found one rock in a flowerbed while she was walking in Downtown Hattiesburg. Her discovery was one of the more comical ones that were meant to brighten up someone’s day.
“It was so funny to see. I had never even seen one of the kindness rocks before, but I feel as though the one I found really fit into my personality and sense of humor. The rock had a hamburger painted on it and said ‘Hattiesburger,’” Saucier said.
Anyone can join the RockinHburg group and attend the events they hold. The group puts on several scheduled rock painting events twice each month, and even holiday activities such as their Halloween and Easter events, “Rock and Seek,” at local parks.
One of the group’s biggest events is held on Feb. 17, which is National Random Acts of Kindness Day.