Lawton rocks.

To many who live here, it’s a testament. For others, it may be considered a misnomer.

But when you bring geological objects painted with uplifting messages or images into the picture, there’s a correlation. And when you stumble upon a painted rock in the wilds of Lawton, it’s hard not to think this city of around 90,000 does, indeed, rock.

Diane McGath, an administrator and one of the originators of the Lawton Rocks Facebook group said that’s the intent. It’s the joy of the surprise. Her clothing choice reflects the spirit of the endeavor.

“Especially when they’re found totally unexpected and out of the blue,” she said. The idea is, like my sweatshirt says, ‘Paint Rocks, Spread Kindness.’”

The group, now about four years old, has over 9,000 online members. What its members do is paint rocks with uplifting messages and images and then place them around town. If you find one, you can pick it up. But it’s encouraged you return with one of your own creation at a later time.

On a recent Saturday, about a dozen folks filled the gym of the Dr. E.A. Owens Center on Southwest 11th Street to paint rocks and share in the joy of being part of the community. McGath said the group tries to hold at least one of these each month.

Patty Patterson, another administrator, said her enthusiasm bloomed when she found her first painted rock hidden in the city. She went from finder to planter and now, it’s her mission to spread positivity through painted rocks planted about the secret spots of Lawton neighborhoods.

“We paint rocks,” she said. “It’s just to make somebody smile, make happiness.”

That positive spirit brought Triston Wright out to enjoy the spirit and do his part to paint something special to be found by another later. It’s about participating in the community, he said.

“I feel like people don’t patronize local events and don’t appreciate Lawton for its small-town mentality,” he said.

Holding up a freshly painted rock, Wright said it’s an artistic way to participate and nurture community-oriented events. It doesn’t hurt that it’s fun and it reinforces a morale code, he said.

“I’m being the change I wanted to see,” he said.

Seated together at a table, Kansas-transplants Bob and Mary Parker were all smiles with their collected rock works. She said they were attracted after seeing the group’s Facebook page and thought it looked like “so much fun.” And it keeps the couple out of trouble.

Bob Parker said there was freedom in the art form.

“You can be as creative as you want,” he said. “Anything to keep us seniors off the street.”

Six-year-old Jersey Michael picked up a painted rock from the collection table and stared at its visage of an eagle and American flag coloring. His eyes widened and you could envision his imagination turning over ideas for his own creation.

McGath said acrylic paint and a good clear coat are essential ingredients for your own creation. But the “canvas” offers an ideal choice as well as a truth once you get the addiction.

“Flat, obviously,” she said when asked the best rock to paint with before adding a caveat. “I don’t let any rock go to waste.”

Written by Scott Rains: