Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Nika & the giving tree December 28, 2020

A welcoming message banners the Division Street entrance to the Northfield Public Library.

RECENTLY, I NEEDED to replenish my stash of library books. That meant a trip to the Northfield Public Library 20 minutes away. The Faribault library remains closed to in-person visits due to COVID-19. I’m the type of reader who needs to browse shelves, hold a book and read its summary before deciding whether to check it out.

Plus, Northfield, COVID or not, always rates as a delightful community to visit.

“Rocky the Giving Tree” against the backdrop of the Northfield library.

As soon as Randy and I pulled up to the Northfield library, I noticed a small tree draped with winter scarves near the base of the library hill. But first things first. Books.

I found four, one of which I started and finished that very day. Yes, sometimes books are that good.

Inside the library, a portion of a poem by Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy. This seems to fit well The Giving Tree.

Once I’d gathered those books and snapped two photos inside the library, I focused my attention on the tree. The Gratitude Tree, now renamed The Giving Tree. Previously I photographed gratitude notes here, among the branches.

The library tree is serving as a host site for The Giving Tree and similar projects.
Empty clothespins indicate scarves already taken from a tree once sporting many more items of winter wear.
A tag on each item explains the project.

But this time, hand-knit scarves hung among the branches, each with a note attached indicating these are part of the 100 Kind Deeds Day Project. Need a scarf or other winter wear (I spotted a single hat)? Take one.

Handknit with love…and draped in The Giving Tree.
In the background sits the historic Archer House, severely damaged in a recent fire and its future unknown.
The scarves are almost like an art story.

As I photographed the collection, I wondered about the backstory. After researching online, I discovered this is the endeavor of 10-year-old Nika Hirsch of Northfield, founder of This Life Rocks. Annually for the past four years, Nika has invited the Northfield community to accomplish 100 kind acts in 24 hours. This year she dropped toys off at a hospital, picked up trash in a park and gathered donations for The Giving Tree.

Just across the street from The Giving Tree/library are the lovely historic buildings of downtown Northfield.

But there’s more. Remember that name, This Life Rocks? Well, this all started a few years back after Nika was diagnosed with selective mutism, a disorder often linked to social anxiety resulting in difficulty speaking with most people. With therapy, hard work, the love and support of her family and others, and a project—painting encouraging messages on rocks to leave in public places—Nika has accomplished much. The rock painting allowed her to communicate in a non-verbal way.

The beautiful Northfield Public Library serves as host site and backdrop for The Giving Tree.

Watching videos of Nika, I am amazed at how much she’s overcome, how confident and strong in the face of challenges. Nika truly inspires. She makes this world a much better place with her hands-on care, with her positive attitude, with her motto to live life with enthusiasm. And with her kindness.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

12 Responses to “Nika & the giving tree”

  1. Nika is a TRUE INSPIRATION for ALL!!! To sharing kindness and not judgement. To living life with enthusiasm. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  2. Rebecca Spitzack Says:

    😏 nice article about our community neighbors….I don’t understand why they open and we are closed yet. Yikes. But that was not the purpose of your article😶

    • Thank you, Becky. It’s OK that you raise the point of our library remaining closed while Northfield’s has been open. I don’t quite “get it” either other than knowing COVID cases in Faribault have been much higher than in Northfield. I wonder the same about government offices being closed while city leaders call for restaurants to re-open. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    I didn’t know about this special young woman and her projects of kindness. I have seen the tree by the library in passing, when it was the gratitude tree. I’ll look at as the giving tree next time.

  4. I love the giving tree and the story behind it. I’m glad you still have an option for library books not far from your home.

  5. Missy’s Crafty Mess Says:

    What a great idea and wonderful story.

  6. Jana Hirsch Says:

    I’m Nika’s mom and stumbled across this. Thank you so very much for your kind works about Nika. It means so much to her to hear that what she does makes a difference.


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