“Kindness Rocks” to Inspire Empathy and Compassion

Oval-shaped rocks, each decorated with colorful phrases like “Never Lose Hope,” “Be Yourself,” and “SMILE” filled the patio of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library last Saturday. Within a day, most of the rocks were gone.

Referred to as “Kindness Rocks,” the stones were painted by 27 Community Engagement student coordinators who worked together to promote the spread of kindness and love across campus  through the Phillips Academy Kindness Rock Garden Project.

Each rock was decorated with quotes or pictures that carried an inspiring and positive meaning. They were then placed in visible areas around campus  including the dorms, pathways, and the library.

“The general idea is that… kind messages are making their way around campus,” said Julia Howard, fellow in Office of Community Engagement, in an interview with The Phillipian.

“Hopefully someone who is stressed about studying for a test might come across on campus—whether in a random place or someone had intentionally placed it in their dorm room—a little ‘you can do it’ rock [that gives] the person a boost,” Howard continued.

Student Coordinator William Kim ’18 pointed out that a small amount of kindness can lead to greater outcomes.

“The point of the project was to spread a little bit of kindness to other people’s lives… to encourage them [and] give them something to look forward to… I think having that little bit of kindness can be an impactful thing,” said Kim in an interview with The Phillipian.

The Kindness Rock Project itself has already been taking place across the country. It was first introduced to Andover by Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of the Office of Community Engagement, who saw the project in Newburyport, Massachusetts over the past summer.

After deciding to adopt the project, coordinators used the patio of the library as a starting point for their rock garden.

“We were pretty amazed to see [that] within a day, all the rocks were gone, which also means that people picked up rocks either for themselves or their friends,” said Howard.

Ever since, the kindness rocks have been spreading across campus in the hands of students and faculty and also spotted in unanticipated places like the cross country course.

“I took two or three [rocks] and placed them at some of the teacher’s houses, and they were very excited… Somebody told me yesterday that they were doing cross country, and they saw a rock. They were like ‘Did you place a rock there? It made my day!’” said Emilie Cliquet, Program Assistant of the Office of Community Engagement, in an interview with The Phillipian.

Students and faculty can add their own rocks to the project by visiting the Dean of Students Office or the Community Engagement Office. Howard hopes to create more locations that serve as “kindness rock-making stations” on campus.

Howard anticipates that student-driven initiatives will contribute in the future spread and expansion of the project.

“The Community Engagement Office introduced this project to the campus… but we really want the students to be the ones who carry and continue the project. If you take a rock and you feel like someone else could use the same kind message, pass the rock around and pave [the way] forward,” said Howard.