I recently published a book on intercultural competence with my friend and colleague, Professor Irina Golubeva. We had a lot of trouble coming up with an idea for the front cover and did not want to use a stock image.
One of my hobbies is making kindness rocks. These are rocks that you paint with words of wisdom or other fun and inspirational pictures. You then leave these rocks for others to find on footpaths, park benches, or other places.
The practice of making and hiding kindness rocks, which started several years ago in the United States, is now found in at least 10 countries around the world. At the time we were trying to decide on a book cover, I had painted quite a few kindness rocks and regularly left them in various places around North Yorkshire, England where I lived.
In casting around for ideas for the book cover, it dawned on me that it would be great to incorporate kindness rocks. I thought of people looking at competencies written on kindness rocks and learning from them. I initially thought of using real people, but in the midst of a strict COVID lockdown in the summer of 2020, my options were very limited. Then I remembered seeing photos with tiny figurines of people and decided to use figurines instead. I painted some rocks with the most important (in our opinion) intercultural competencies highlighted in the book and set up a photo shoot in my garden. Although not a professional photographer, I do enjoy taking photos and the creative process of staging the photos was a lot fun—except when the tiny figurines kept toppling over! The above photo is just one of many that I took. Although not the one we selected for the book cover, it was a close runner up.
I still paint kindness rocks regularly and leave them here and there to inspire others. Sometimes I paint them with pictures and sometimes with intercultural competencies, which I see as a small way to promote intercultural competence. When I occasionally find kindness rocks that others have painted, it gives me a lift. Although I have never found a rock with an intercultural competency painted on it, the rocks always promote positivity which is at the heart of intercultural competence.
If you are interested, you can see the final photo we selected for the cover of our book, Intercultural Competence for College and University Students: A Global Guide for Employability and Social Change, published by Springer in 2020.
Found kindness rocks in your neighbourhood? Feel inspired to make your own? Share your photos in the comments.