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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:07:30 12:08:29

A picture is worth a thousand words on this rock discovered at South Abington Park.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:06:21 14:03:08

JULIE JEFFERY MANWARREN | FOR ABINGTON SUBURBAN A painted rock sits at South Abington Park waiting to encourage passersby.

SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — It was a beautiful day, but my spirit was low as I set off on a walk through South Abington Park.

I went a short distance before seeing the first one. The rock’s bright colors contrasted against the earth tones around it.

Its painted message was simple: “Shine.”

It felt like a gift.

A few steps later, I came across more.

“You are loved,” one proclaimed.

“Smile,” another read.

“Hope” was spelled out on the next.

These words of encouragement lined the trail.

A butterfly was painted on one, a rainbow on another.

Gratefulness flooded my heart and welled up inside of me. I felt a shift in my perspective.

As I left the park, I came across a group of children and adults near the end of the trail. Seeing paint on an arm of one of the kids, I stopped to talk.

“Was it you who put the painted rocks on the trail?” I asked.

They answered with smiles and a chorus of “Yes.”

“Thank you,” I told them. “I want you to know you made a difference today. I was having a bad day, and your rocks reminded me to smile. You encouraged my heart.”

I left without asking who they were.

Weeks later, I still think of those rocks and how words have the power to foster positive change when seasoned with kindness and love.

Why do we, as adults, hesitate? What is it that keeps us from saying something kind, offering a hand or showing love with no strings attached?

Those rocks got me thinking, “how can I reach out to others in the same way? How can I build up my community and not just exist in it?”

Over the next few weeks, I saw painted rocks everywhere. I anticipated their joyful greeting and smiled in recognition when I spotted them.

Some were painted by children and placed outside the Abington Community Library as part of a summer program there.

I also found the Abington Heights Rocks group on Facebook. As part of a school project that started last year, students distributed painted rocks throughout the Abingtons. Each rock has a message on the back urging finders to post a picture of it and leave it in a new location. One made it all the way to New Mexico.

I called a dozen different schools and day camps, searching for the South Abington Park rock artists who made such an impression on me in June. Although I have a hunch, for now the group’s identity remains a mystery.

Sometimes the most powerful voice isn’t the one behind a podium or media platform. It’s the one choosing to bless others with hope, and spreading joy to strangers.

To the kids who left those rocks: thank you.