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Random rocks of kindness Lodi Rocks! group spreads kindness, inspiration one artistic rock at a time

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Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 8:30 am

One is painted with an intricate, colorful seahorse. Another has an enthusiastic, bright smile. A few have inspirational messages: "You're enough," "You're a diamond in the rough" and "Climb every mountain."

They've been spotted around town, near Starbucks, on a newspaper rack in Downtown Lodi, outside local restaurants. A rock with a black heart and a thin blue line, reading "Thank you, Lodi PD" was left outside of the police station on Tuesday. A day camper even spotted one at Micke Grove Zoo on Thursday, emblazoned simply with "LOVE."

If you haven't seen one of the brightly painted rocks in Lodi yet, don't worry. The Lodi Rocks! group is hard at work to ensure there are plenty of the "kindness rocks" to go around.

"People are spreading the word and rocks are popping up everywhere," said Amy Warmerdam Napier, who started the Facebook group for the Lodi artists at the end of June.

It's already grown to more than 550 members. Group members scrounge up fist-sized rocks and paint them Ñ often with their children or grandchildren pitching in. Many have kind messages, while others are simply works of art.

Then, they hide the rocks around town for strangers to find, in hopes of literally brightening someone's day. Sometimes they post a photo and a clue to the Facebook group. Other times, they simply put them somewhere out of the way, but where someone is sure to find it.

"Maybe they're having a bad day and this rock is going to find them," Napier said.

The group is one of hundreds that have popped up around the country in recent months, part of a movement to spread kindness and positivity in a simple, artistic way.

Napier discovered the movement through Pinterest. She likes to browse for art projects she can tackle with her kids, 5-year-old Jace, 4-year-old Owen, and baby Aria.

The rocks caught her eye, because Jace loves to collect rocks and loves to paint, too.

"He's my little artist," she said.

"Momming" soon caught up to her, and she forgot about the project until the Stockton Rocks group popped up on a Lodi-themed Facebook page.

"I started seeing pictures of kids finding rocks and painting rocks," she said.

So she looked around. She couldn't find a Lodi group, but she did stumble on a website for the Kindness Rocks Project.

"Our goal is simple," the website reads. "To promote random acts of kindness to unsuspecting recipients ... whether by painting and dropping inspirational rocks or some other cool, creative way to bring kindness into the world."

Napier was hooked, and she wanted a local community of fellow kindness rockers. She contacted the Stockton Rocks group, and they offered advice for setting up her own pack of creative, kind-hearted rock painters.

Lodi Rocks! was born.

Soon, the group was growing and trading tips. Members have posted step-by-step guides on how to create rocks to be proud of, stories of elementary schools creating "kindness" rock gardens, where to find the best rocks, and tips on which brands have the best paint pens for detail work.

On the back of each rock, they include information on how to find the Facebook group, along with the hashtag #lodirocks for use in Instagram photos and Twitter posts.

Lodi is already beginning to spot the wave of kind rocks popping up all over town.

A&W Root Beer's page shows photos of "Hope" and "Love" rocks found at the Lodi location, with links to the Lodi and Stockton hashtags. Micke Grove Zoo posted a photo of a rock found on the zoo grounds. Links to the group have appeared at fast-moving groups dedicated to Lodi gossip and news.

One of the group's members, a new resident who moved to Lodi from southern San Joaquin County, has been working with her son to paint rocks for the city's Heritage District, to make sure the love is spread around.

On the group's page, new members excitedly share photos of the rocks they've found and their own creations. Members outside Lodi have asked about forming their own groups or requested rocks be dropped in their neighborhoods.

Napier is thrilled to see the project taking off locally.

"The pictures of the little kids finding them are really fun," she said.

She hopes the project will keep spreading through the city, and is already looking into the next step: a rock garden like the one at the Kindness Rocks Project in Cape Cod, Mass., where visitors can take or leave a rock. A sign at the garden explains the project's goals.

Napier has already spoken to the deputy director at Lodi's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department about potentially locating the garden in a city park. The city gave her a packet of information and paperwork to look at before taking the next step, she said.

Really, though, the project has been a way for Napier to show her kids that you don't need a lot of money to be kind to people. Everyone has something to give and even something as simple as a kind message can spread positivity in the world.

"I'm trying to raise kind little people," she said.

The world is full of negativity, she said, and kindness rocks are giving her and other group members a way to fight back and spread love and joy.

"One message at just the right moment can change your whole day, outlook or life," Napier said.

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