Have you ever happened upon a small stone with an inspirational message?
In July 2016, Ann Clark started the “Love Hope Joy Project” in Sonoma. As of last month, she had purchased, decorated and placed more than 1,030 decorated stones downtown.
Clark first got the idea when she walked by a posted flyer that announced: “Take what you need,” with little tear-off tags below that read “joy,” “kindness,” “courage” and so on.
“I loved that so much and wanted to take that idea one step further,” she said.
“My project was created with the understanding that times are tough, and if people find little stones offering messages of inspiration, it might bring a little sunshine into their day,” said Clark. “It’s intended solely to uplift the heart of the finder. Keep it and enjoy it. There’s no need to re-hide the stone that you find.”
Clark has made and placed each of the stones herself. Her project brings no profit, has no ulterior motive and no proselytizing – it’s just meant to uplift the hearts of those who find them.
It has a different mission than Sonoma Rocks, another local project that is more like a treasure-hunt activity.
For two decades, Clark has lived in an apartment in downtown Sonoma several blocks from the Plaza.
After spending 30 years as a family law legal assistant, she went back to school in her 50s to get her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s degree in counseling to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. Clark spends her days working at Sonoma County’s VERITY sexual assault and abuse center and at the Family Justice Center.
“All day long, I see so much heartache and pain endured at the hands of others so it helps me to be able to shift gears on the weekends to focus on the good and the inspiring,” she said.
Stone finders sometimes run across the project on Facebook and post their reaction.
“One man said it turned around his day, which made my heart glow,” she said.
There have been setbacks. Clark used to place the stones around the Plaza until one day she saw a city worker in an orange vest pick up stones she had just placed and throw them in his garbage bag.
“I approached him and told him I’d put the rock there for people to find,” she said. “He replied that he knew that but he’d been finding them and removing them all along. I checked with City authorities and apparently anything left in the Plaza is considered trash – empty coffee cup or meticulously hand-painted stones. I understand the need for such a policy, but still…”
Check out the project online at facebook.com/LoveHopeJoyProject.
Email Lorna at email@example.com.
Want to spread some joy yourself?
It’s not associated with Ann Clark’s project but at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, Sonoma Valley Library is hosting a rock painting class.
Instructor Terrie Carver of West Coast Painted Rocks, will teach participants how to paint rocks decoratively for keeping, sharing or hiding. Materials are provided. Class size is limited to 20. Register at sonomalibrary.org.