As millions of Americans gathered in stores across the country on Black Friday to buy Christmas gifts for their families and friends, 10-year-old Northfielder Nika Hirsch placed scarves, hats and other winter weather accessories on the gratitude tree at Northfield Library.
Making sure each of the items were properly placed, Nika and her mother Jana soon began an approximately 15-hour journey as part of their “100 Kind Deeds Day,” a testament to what Nika says the Christmas season is about: Giving to those in need and encouraging others to do the same.
Despite the onset of the pandemic, they still planned to donate an assortment of play items to people across the region, give $130 in books to the Minnesota Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, collect trash, make other surprise donations and do other random kind deeds. Nika has written notes to teachers who are working longer hours during COVID-19 and planned to make surprise donations to health care workers. She worked with Northfielder Samantha Roback to deliver “This Life Rocks” ice cream — rainbow M&M’s and cookie dough — contact-free to the doorways of Northfield residents.
Though Nika, Jana and the 15 other volunteers frequently say they are committing 100 kind deeds on Black Friday, the actual number of good things they do is likely hundreds more. For example, they count buying chocolate for everyone inside of one store as only one kind deed.
A tradition of giving
The tradition began in 2016 when Nika was 6. Jana and Nika started talking about the what’s often a competition each Black Friday for people to get the most lavish gifts, and agreed that it would be good if people shifted their focus from material objects to doing good things. From there, the duo set up the This Life Rocks Instagram page, a site that now has 2,043 followers and includes pictures of Nika trying to spread happiness and cheer through messages painted on rocks she placed throughout the community and other kind gestures. The This Life Rocks Facebook page has 573 likes.
“A lot of adults have told us it’s their favorite day of the year,” Jana said of 100 Kind Deeds Day.
Above all, their work is intended to spark a chain of giving, a process they believe is even more important this year as the pandemic continues wreaking havoc on everyday life.
“This year has been really hard for people, and so it will be good to spread some cheer,” Nika said.
“A lot of people are feeling lonely and bummed out,” Jana added.
In a typical year, Nika, a fifth-grade student at Greenvale Park Elementary School, enjoys visiting the Humane Society and Mall of America the most on Black Friday. She hides rocks and gift cards at certain stores, pays for the meals and drinks of others, and donates quarters to unlock grocery carts at Aldi. They usually visit a Veterans Affairs building, but COVID-19 restrictions limited that outreach this year.
“We always surprise Santa with a present,” Jana said.
Nika typically doesn’t like the attention her good deeds bring and instead tries to focus on the overarching message of her work. Nika’s father has twice battled cancer, and she believes it is her responsibility to reach out and help others as her family has been helped.
“A lot of people have helped me, so it feels really good to give back,” Nika added.
To her mother, Nika’s mindset is a part of the girl’s extraordinary kindness and wisdom.
“It’s sort of just who Nika is,” Jana said.
“It’s not about stuff, it’s not about those kinds of material things, it’s about being a community. It’s a really beautiful way to show your community and your greater country, state, world that we are all here for each other and care for each other.”