Detroit residents discover happy rocks during virus outbreak

By BRANDEN HUNTER Detroit Free Press

DETROIT (AP) — It’s been said that if you want to find happiness, you just have to look around you.

Well, residents of North Rosedale Park on Detroit’s west side are discovering that the seemingly Pollyannaish mantra is actually true, at least in their neighborhood — in the form of “happy rocks.”

From the park, to sidewalks, and under trees, you can find these rocks almost anywhere around North Rosedale Park, the Detroit Free Press reported. Each with its own design, some have words of encouragement, like “Stay Safe”, “It’s OK” and “We Will Get Through This.” While others have drawings of smiley faces, flowers, or are just painted with bright colors.

And with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus fraying nerves all over town as schools and nonessential businesses have been closed for weeks and people have been encouraged to stay inside their homes to curb the spread of the pandemic, finding a friendly message of hope and happiness is just what some people need.

It’s unknown — or at least unsaid — who first started leaving the palm-size technicolor messages of happiness throughout the neighborhood. But the need to help people find a little hope in the midst of crisis is catching on in North Rosedale.

Ten-year-old Evelyn Wybenga and her mother Sarah Hulett first noticed the colorful rocks with inspirational messages painted on them when they were out for a walk two weeks ago. They were moved by what they saw and decided to paint some of their own.

“We weren’t the first ones to do them, but my daughter became inspired by the ones that were already out, so I told her she could do some of her own,” said Hulett, who picked their rocks from their own backyard. “Whenever we would go for a walk, we would put some on her friends porches or randomly around the neighborhood.”

The pandemic is affecting people’s mood and the Huletts hope the happy rocks will help turn frowns upside down.

“My messages were meant to be uplifting,” said a bashful Wybenga. “My favorite rock says ‘Choose Kind’ and I painted it because of a book I like.”

Hulett said she is seeing more and more of her neighbors going out for walks because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order has kept most people indoors, though the governor has encouraged Michiganders to get outside for a little exercise, as long as proper social distancing is still observed.

So what better way to get people’s attention when they are most looking for a little reprieve from their suddenly sheltered new normal.

“For us, these rocks were painted to reconnect with one another in little ways,” Hulett said.

And they appear to be working.

Marsha Bruhn, 82, was out enjoying the sunny weather with her friend on a recent Thursday and heard about the happy rocks through comments some residents were sharing on the Nextdoor app.