I have a terrific interest in urban interventions to promote a sense of connection and inclusion in cities and to reduce hopelessness and alienation.
Professionally, I have long acted on this interest and commitment by teaching – particularly teaching those who tend to be under-served for one reason or another by public institutional systems. But on a personal level I try also to be a neighborhood ambassador, which is to say that I try to “be the change I wish to see in the world.” Specifically, I reach out in whatever way I find at hand to those I pass on the street or park, particularly those who look lonely or isolated.
Last month I wrote here about a new enterprise, my “cottage industry,” my latest little urban intervention. It is a little project, surely, but it fits into the little cracks of time between my four concurrent teaching projects.
Every week I paint a couple of stones, of fist-size or smaller, in a vivid and eye catching way, label the undersides with the words Finders Keepers, and tuck them near a tree or shrub in a public space.
There they sit in wait until they catch someone’s eye who picks them up and, I hope, is cheered at the thought of the find. Maybe he takes it home. Maybe he puts it in his pocket until he spots a new place where he can leave it hours later for another person to find. Maybe he feels just a little more positive, a little more courageous, and tries something he has been wanting to do but had been discouraged from. Maybe an ache stopped hurting for a moment.
I deliberately do not include any marks on my rocks allowing the recipient to know from where the gift came, so the actual life story of the stones after I leave them remains a mystery.
But maybe, just maybe, today I got a signal back.
At the foot of a tree in a grassy area where I have left two Finders Keepers on different days, exactly where I left them, I found today a blank rock. There are no rocks in this park, so it had to have been brought in.
Was it a message back to this mystery rock-bunny? Was it placed there as a suggestion that I paint another and leave it in the same spot?
I will do that and see how long it takes for it to disappear.