This column first appeared in the August 2017 edition of Gaston Alive magazine.
Summer can be a polarizing season. Especially in the Carolinas. You either love the summer, or you hate it. Or you are like me – it changes by the day.
I do love the long days and the slower pace of life. I could do without the extreme heat and humidity, but like most things, when you pick up the stick, you get both ends.
Autumn will be here before you know it. And with it, our routines won’t be far behind.
Summer has a predictable rhythm to it. By now, the heat and humidity have all but forced us into our air-conditioned homes. Except for folks like LuAnn Harden.
LuAnn is the creator of the Color Gaston Facebook group. It’s mission is to spread a little color around Gaston County, as well as a little happiness and positivity – all in the form of painted rocks.
LuAnn runs just one of the many Facebook groups in our area devoted to this new phenomenon involving the painting and hiding of rocks. Sure it may be a fad. Or it just may be a summertime thing. But it’s here, and mothers all over the place are jumping in with both feet. And they’re bringing their kids along for the ride.
Everyone is glued to a screen these days. And I mean everyone. But it’s the kids I think about the most – many of whom will never know a summer without on-demand television and endless video games. Unfortunately, it’s just the world we live in today.
After all, it was Ferris Bueller who warned us that life moves pretty fast. If we don’t stop and look around once in a while, we could miss it. We could miss out on these painted rocks. And the joy they bring.
It’s a simple formula. It starts with painting, you know, an actual rock. With real paint. It’s doesn’t involve some silly app on your iPad that allows you to paint virtual rocks. You have to actually put the screen down to paint these rocks. And even better – it forces interaction. With real people.
Adults interact with kids and kids interact with adults. I guess we can say that rocks bring people together. Imagine that.
Now technology does play a role in it. And that’s OK. But there is a system to this painted rock phenomenon.
You paint the rock, then you hide the rock. Others (hopefully) find it, snap a photo and post that it was found on one of the many Facebook groups. Lastly, you re-hide it for others to find.
LuAnn got the idea to create this Facebook group from her sister who was a member of a similar group in Burke County. LuAnn loved the concept and thought it was a great way to spread a little happiness and positivity in her own neck of the woods – one painted rock at a time.
She started her group at the end of May and invited as many people as she could think of. She kicked it all off by painting and hiding 43 rocks in and around the Cherryville area. It didn’t take long before some of her rocks were found.
Some of those rocks were found by Hayden Stout, a 7-year old boy from Cherryville, on a Sunday night right as the sun was going down.
Hayden was having a bad day prior to finding the rocks, according to his mom, Casey Stout. Hayden’s dad was going to have to work out of town during the week for a while, making him only available on weekends.
That’s hard thing to understand at seven years old. Especially when you are used to having your dad around. So you can imagine how Hayden felt on that Sunday night when his dad had to leave.
Casey thought LuAnn’s painted rock idea would be a nice little distraction for Hayden. So they set out to hunt for the rocks that LuAnn had painted and hidden.
That’s the beauty of summer nights. The sun hangs on just long enough so a sad seven-year-old boy can hunt for rocks. Within thirty minutes of their search, Hayden found his first rock over on Main Street in Cherryville. He was thrilled!
He kept looking and looking. Over the course of an hour and a half, he found three more rocks. Hayden was on cloud nine. His mom’s plan worked.
But more importantly, LuAnn’s plan worked. Or as she said, “Mission accomplished”.
Will painted rocks change the world? No, it won’t. Will it make you smile for a moment? You bet.
How do I know? I found my first rock the other day. And I wasn’t even looking for it. I guess you can say it found me.
In a world where negativity swirls around so easily, especially in our current political climate, then I’d like to cast my vote for more painted rocks.
If happiness is a painted rock, then I wish for a mountain of rocks and an ocean of stones. All painted. All happy. And for summer to stay just a little bit longer.