BETHEL ROCKS: Pop-Up University Rolls Into Town

I admit I have a soft spot for small towns with big ideas. 

Last Sunday afternoon, I drove up to Bethel, Vermont, with my 6-year-old daughter to attend our very first class at Bethel University

We were headed to the elementary school for “Kindness Rocks,” a rock-painting workshop led by two intrepid young professors, 7- and 5-year-old sisters Anna and Eliza.

After a pit-stop at the Bethel Village Sandwich Shop to fuel up on coffee and a fresh-made doughnut—not to mention a perfectly lovely chat with the woman behind the counter, Cathy, who also happens to be Bethel’s librarian—we were on our way again. (We couldn't risk being late and getting glares from our teachers.)

We had no trouble finding the art room—a bright space festooned in student paintings, tables and stools delightfully paint-smudged, with children and adults arriving and ready to get down to it.

Bethel University, a program of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative, is in its fifth year as the nation’s only free, community-run pop-up university. (Cool, right?) And throughout the month of March, anyone can sign up for a bounty of classes offered by local residents, artisans, and business owners.

Some of the courses you’ll find: Pruning Neglected Apple Trees, Hemp Cultivation and Processing, Introduction to Renaissance Astrology, Wine Appreciation, Dog Obedience Training. 

And Kindness Rocks.

Professors Anna and Eliza shared their simple philosophy: paint your own design onto a rock, and include a short, inspirational message. Then go into the world with your rocks and hide them. Hide them so someone will discover them. So that someone may receive the kindness you’ve painted on them.

“Oh and add the hashtag ‘Bethel Rocks,’” they said.

Bethel rocks, indeed.

The coffee cup I walked in with, which I’d emptied, we filled back up with colorful stones to take home and hide. Then when (not if) this snow melts away and our kindness rocks shine through, may they make someone’s mud season a little less gray.

Bethel University courses continue till the end of March, so go sign up! It’s free, and it’s fun.

Caught thinking of the perfect inspirational message.

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