Have you ever come across a painted rock? Are you familiar with the concept? People paint rocks and leave them in public areas for others to find. What they paint on the front of the rock is completely up to them. The underside typically offers information about the person or group that placed them there. The purpose can be to raise awareness, share a message of hope, or just make someone smile.

One recent morning, while running errands, my wife, Susan, went to a local Wegmans grocery store. As she walked from her car toward the store, she noticed it: a painted rock on the ground next to the shopping cart corral. It was painted in the blue color associated with pulmonary fibrosis. The rock had a simple message painted in white on a blue background: “Just Breathe.”

Divine providence?

In the painted rock world, when you find one, it is customary to share with the artist where you found it. It was no different for Susan. When she returned home, she was excited. How was she, of all people, the one who came across this rock? A phrase so meaningful to us had been left for Susan to discover.

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On the rock’s underside were the words “Spotsy Rocks on FB.” Spotsy Rocks! is a public Facebook group whose members either paint the rocks and/or discover them.

Susan posted a picture of the “Just Breathe” rock in the Facebook group, and within hours, we met Jessica Foster, the artist who painted it.


How to bring joy to others | Pulmonary Fibrosis News | Sam holds a rock painted sky blue with the words "Just Breathe" written in white, followed by a heart.

“Just Breathe”: finding joy in a little blue rock. (Photo by Sam Kirton)

Susan had commented about where she found it and had explained that her husband had a lung transplant last year, which made the find “especially meaningful.” Foster’s response was equally joyful: “Yay!!! That is one of my rocks. I’m so glad the right person found it, that makes it even more special!!!”

Finding joy

Foster takes joy in creating “positive rocks.”

With COVID-19 continuing to linger, many in the rare disease communities continue to be negatively affected. In response, we’ve found ways to connect with one another via platforms for virtual gatherings, like Zoom. When yoga studios could no longer hold classes in person, they could do so via Zoom. Virtual pulmonary rehabilitation videos began to become available. People began to share with others in a virtual setting the things that brought them joy.

What is your joy?

I recently shared with you that one of my passions is cooking. I love to make others happy one bite at a time. I also have other things that bring me joy. None of us are limited to a single thing that brings us joy. We’re all worthy of a whole bouquet of joy.

Writing this column each week brings me joy. It’s therapeutic for me to share my journey and some things I’ve learned along the way. It’s especially true when I read your comments and learn of a connection you made with something I wrote. This is a form of advocacy for the pulmonary fibrosis community.

You must find your own joy. Rare diseases and joy are not mutually exclusive. The pulmonary fibrosis community, along with other rare disease communities, constantly amaze me with the things that bring joy.

One little rock

Jessica Foster, you rock! One little painted rock left in a parking lot to be discovered by Susan brought joy to the artist, to Susan, and to me. Thank you for sharing your joy and helping me make every breath count.

What are the little things that make you smile? Is it something you can teach others or share with others? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

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