Roxbury Students Cultivate Kindness That Really Rocks

By: J.L. Shirley

When on holiday in Cape Cod, MA, Renee Zengel, an art teacher at Roxbury High School, did not expect to find artistic inspiration on the ground but that is exactly where she found it.
“My family came across a #KindnessRocksProject at the end of a dock,” says Zengel. On further investigation of the hashtag Zengel unearthed the inspirational movement that is happening across the country.
What Zengel found at the end of the dock in Cape Cod were colorfully painted rocks which have inspirational messages on them. Examples of messages on these rocks include saying such as “You Matter,” “Speak the Truth, Even if Your Voice Shakes,” and “In the End What Will Matter Most?”
The intention of leaving these small messages is to pass on hope and positive words to people who need them.
“Rocks can be taken by someone going through something difficult in their life or taken and then given to another person who needs the inspiration,” explains Zengel. In this way anonymous words of comfort and motivation can connect strangers through a web of support.
The goals of a Kindness Rock Project, as outlined by Zengel, is to inspire others with “randomly placed rocks” while also recruiting everyone who comes across the kindness rocks to “join the pursuit of inspiring others through random acts of kindness.”
Zengel has done her part in this movement by bringing it to her students at Roxbury High School.
“Due to the social media connection that encourages you to post photos of your rock or visit a kindness rock project, I decided to work with my photography students” on this project states Zengel.
By posting photos of Kindness Rock Projects on Instagram or Facebook, the movement is kept alive for others to benefit from and enjoy.
Residents are all familiar with the Kindness for Christopher movement which began in June 2015 to commemorate the great but short life of Christopher D’Amico. It is therefore no surprise that members of the community had already begun a Kindness Rock Project, leaving painted rocks with “Kindness for Christopher” written on their face.
“It was then that I decided to combine the two inspirational ideas,” states Zengel, explaining her resolve to create a Kindness Rock garden which also paid tribute to the kindness shared by D’Amico and which continues to be remembered by his family and the community on the twenty-fourth of every month.
“Some of the students in my classes know members of Christopher’s family so they were really motivated to be a part of this experience,” says Zengel.
After consulting about the best location for the rock garden with Meg Fagan, who takes care of the garden located in the front of the school, Zengel put her students to work.
“The students were given paint and were allowed to color the rock to help amplify the positivity of their quote,” Zengel says while sharing some of the students motivating quotes, such as “Be the Change in the World” and “Everyday Brings News Choices.”
The students were given time in class to work on their creations and figure out what inspirational saying suited them best. “This opportunity was such a positive experience for all of the students to work on together,” Zengel reflects.
On the completion of painting their rocks, students then met outside in the garden to place their rocks, take photos and join together for a group photo. Each student then posted the photos of their kindness rocks on Oct. 24, which is the day the Kindness for Christopher movement calls for a random act of generosity.
To follow these movements in the community check out the hashtags #kindnessrocks and #kindnessforchristopher.
The Kindness Rock Project is intended to be an ongoing movement. Many teachers and peer leaders intend on contributing to this garden of inspiration and the garden is expected to keep growing in new ways as visitors come and go with new inspiration and leave with refreshed motivation.
As this project is open to the entire community the network of support and link to the inspiration of others, even if anonymously, could make a huge difference in the life of someone living right next door. Those are some positive results that really rock!

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