WINDSOR, N.S. — When a Mount Uniacke woman stopped by to get the mail in August, she was overcome with emotion when she saw a small package with her name on it.
Ivy Piercey, who was struggling to cope with her military husband's posting to Ottawa, said the tears flowed freely when she received a Travelling Kindness Rock.
“Some people think that I'm too emotional but it really meant a lot,” said Piercey as her voice cracked.
Her friend, Paula George, knew Piercey was struggling with her first time living apart from her husband.
“I always knew that I had a good friend but to know that she thought about me when she saw the rock and wanted me to have it meant a lot. It gave me a sense of calm and peace because I knew that she cared enough; that if I needed her for anything, she was there,” said Piercey.
She said the rocks are “beautifully painted” but it's the meaning behind them that moves people to tears.
“It hits home. It makes you feel like you're not the only one struggling. You get this rock and it gives you a little bit of assurance that everything is going to be OK,” said Piercey.
Piercey is among the 850 people who have received a special painted stone since Ginger LeBoutillier launched Travelling Kindness Rocks.
Kindness spreads worldwide
LeBoutillier knew when she first started developing the idea that she was onto something powerful. But, she said, she never imagined it would become a worldwide venture.
“I did have a sense early on that this would continue to evolve and I still have a sense that this will grow,” said LeBoutillier.
“My hope and my vision is that this will be a platform that people can (use to) feel connected to one another. I see it as being something that can help people... It really doesn't matter where people are from. We've all had experiences or will have experiences where we need to support each other and I think that's the powerful thing.”
In early 2015, LeBoutillier explored dot painting with her Grade 5/6 class. She was hooked and began perfecting the technique in her spare time.
As the school year wound down and children were “starting to be a little short with their ability to be kind with one another,” she put a few painted rocks in a basket at her desk and invited the children to take one when they needed it. The classroom was once again filled with kind, caring students.
That fall, the rocks began to travel.
“I gained the courage to start a Facebook page and people were aware of what I was doing. It has all evolved from that point on.”
LeBoutillier took a leave of absence from teaching to focus on the new path.
She said it's important to note that Travelling Kindness Rocks are free to give and receive.
“Anybody can ask for a Travelling Kindness Rock for their loved one,” said LeBoutillier. “They go to people who are grieving, battling an illness — anything in life that might be difficult for that loved one.”
This week marks the first time that LeBoutillier won't be sending out one of her own hand-painted rocks — she now has a team of volunteers that she's trained to aid in the project.
“It's grown to a place now where I'm shifting my role from painting the Travelling Kindness Rocks solely myself to training other people who would like to be on the team as a volunteer,” she said.
LeBoutillier has developed a Travelling Kindness Rocks volunteer network and business entity in order to fund the kindness initiative.
Special painting events are held throughout the year where people can, either in person or virtually, learn the basics of dot painting and in one session, create a beautiful masterpiece. They can also purchase items at the Travelling Kindness Rocks storefront on Water Street in Windsor. The tools and patterns used to create beautiful dot designs are also handmade (her husband, Steve, is the lead tool producer) and are for sale.
One fundraiser that is coming up will benefit Christmas Angels. LeBoutillier is hosting a class of 100 at the Super 8 Hotel in Windsor on Nov. 26 from 6-8:30 p.m. The group will dot paint a holiday ornament (painters have a choice of a Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa mandala pattern), and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Hants County Christmas Angels.
Understanding the symbolism
LeBoutillier said the Travelling Kindness Rocks are loaded with symbolism, and each one is customized to suit the person on the receiving end.
The rocks are black with a colourful mandala hand-painted in the middle of them.
“The very first dot that's painted on any rock is always white. That represents hope or if somebody has a religious or spiritual belief, they may find that significant to them as well,” said LeBoutillier. “The base colour, before there's any dots at all, is black. That represents the dark times in that person's (life).”
The Travelling Kindness Rocks are sent via mail, with the postage being paid upfront.
“It is a gift from everybody. Even though there is somebody painting it, the rock is not from them — they're just taking that symbolism and putting it to life on the rock for the recipient.”
LeBoutillier's rocks have travelled the world. They're popular across Canada and the United States and there is interest in Europe, South Africa and beyond.
LeBoutillier said the rocks send kindness to the recipients, which is rewarding for those involved with painting the stylized mandalas.
“We've come up with a tagline: connecting humanity dot by dot,” said LeBoutillier, noting that's exactly what the Travelling Kindness Rocks have been doing.
To find out about upcoming painting sessions or the Travelling Kindness Rocks program, visit: http://www.travellingkindnessrocks.ca or visit the storefront at 49 Water St., Windsor.