By Sarah Wibell
All over Morgan County, people are finding painted rocks. Images or inspirational words appear on one side. On the other are notes saying “Find us on Facebook” with instructions to re-hide the rock after sharing a photo on Instagram at #livelikebritt and #allinlikemichael.
Last April, the deaths of Michael Rhodes, 18, and Brittany Smith, 19, in a car accident deeply affected the Morgan County community. The teenagers had been dating for three years.
“They were amazing kids, goofy, and made everyone happy. They would do anything for anybody. Wherever Michael and Brittany went they spread joy, happiness, and kindness. That’s what the rocks do,” explained Tracey Rhodes, Michael’s mother. These rocks are a way to remember Michael and Brittany while spreading comfort, joy, encouragement, and smiles among those who find them.
Mary Smith, Brittany’s mother, was inspired to start MOCO Rocks (Morgan County GA) while on a trip to North Carolina last October: “It was our first trip without Brittany. My son, Nathan, found a painted rock, called a kindness rock.” Around Thanksgiving, one of the family’s favorite holidays, the painting began as a way of reflecting on the lives of Brittany and Michael. “They would have loved sharing the rocks and the process of spreading kindness,” Mary added. “They loved God, Morgan County, and everyone.”
Robbie Smith, Brittany’s father, stated, “Painting and finding the rocks is therapeutic. It helps take people’s minds off their troubles temporarily and brings kindness and happiness.”
Within the community, some people have gotten used to finding the decorated rocks and always keep an eye out for an odd glimpse of color. Some MOCO rocks have left Morgan County and have found their way to new homes in Tennessee, California, and New Orleans. “We’re amazed with the way this has taken off. People get so used to finding them that we have to keep making them,” said Tracey.
Frequently, painting takes place at Tracey’s and Mary’s houses; however, on Saturday, March 10, a group of rock painters met at the First United Methodist Church. While talking, laughing, and sharing stories, friends and family of Brittany and Michael made more treasures to scatter around the county. Of course, anyone can make these rocks and add the information to link them to MOCO Rocks’ Facebook page.
Jennifer McAlister, close friend of Tracey and fellow rock painter, said, “I see Tracey, Mary, and Robbie and the joy this project gives them.”
“Michael and Brittany both loved kids like there’s no tomorrow,” Mary recalled.
“And the kids loved them,” added Tracey. “This project is so like the two of them, outside the box and making people happy.”
“It’s heartwarming,” Mary agreed. “The rocks bring families and the community together – truly One Morgan. We are a very tight community; they’ve done so much for us, this is the least we could do in return. We want to see how far a little bit of kindness will go.”