A child in North Carolina will be celebrating her birthday this week by spending some time with her homeless friends, sharing her Christmas presents from Santa. Gifts she requested on their behalf.
Maya Jordan asked Santa to bring her blankets and socks for people at the local shelter instead of gifts for herself. "I don't really need anything more. I just have 'wants' — I have everything I need," she said. "What I want is for other people to have everything they need."
"Maya, a 10-year-old 5th grader who is a member of Hillsborough UCC in North Carolina, truly understands what it means to live unselfishly," said the Rev. Kaye Crawford, pastor emerita of the church in the Raleigh-Durham area. "In Old Persian, the name Maya means generous. In Hebrew, the name means spring or brook. Maya Jordan has been aptly named. Her life is indeed a generous spring of love."
Her Christmas wish came as no surprise to her church or her mom, Scarlett. Rev. Crawford, who shared Maya's story in a entry on the website of the UCC's 3 Great Loves initiative, said the child shows deep compassion for her neighbors in need. Maya started sharing what she could with others when she was in the second grade. As she was about to turn 7, she decided she didn't want presents for her birthday, which falls on January 12. Instead she asked her young friends to bring coats and gloves to her party.
"People need to be warm," Scarlett said. "It just kind of clicked for her. 'How about I get some coats for people?' I am warmed by the fact that she just kind of felt it. It was ... there's a need there, she has no needs, so what can she do with her extra — she's always been like that."
Maya's friends and church folks came through for her on her seventh birthday, giving her 71 coats along with gloves, hats, scarves and some non-perishable food items that she was able to personally deliver to the homeless shelter in Chapel Hill.
"I could never explain the look of pure light and love that was on her face when we left that shelter when we delivered those gifts," Scarlett said. "She cried tears of joy for days. It's something I have never seen in her at any other time. You know, in the south when your Gramma would have those old pictures of Jesus hanging in the living room and dining room. You know, with the glow all around him in the crowd? That is what I saw in her face that day and every time she gets the opportunity to help others. That is where I see God."
So for Maya's birthday this year, Scarlett said they are skipping the party. Instead she and her daughter will be doing the Martin Luther King Walk in Hillsborough and going to the shelter to distribute Maya's Christmas gifts from Santa to people she calls friends. 35 blankets, 24 pairs of below-freezing winter socks and 24 tubes of foot cream.
"Jesus told us to wash one another's feet. Maya has done that and so much more," Crawford said. "She has helped warm those feet and helped provide soothing ointment for the feet as well as warmth and love for the whole body and soul of each recipient."
Maya will also be giving 50 emergency solar blankets gifted to her by Santa to the local sheriff's office.
"I continually find myself inspired by the generosity and compassion of our children at Hillsborough UCC," said Pastor Jay Kennett, "Maya is indeed a person who sets an example for others both young and old, by living out the love of God through caring for others, she is a young woman who does and will 'change the world'".
While Santa did get some help with Maya's Christmas wish, from Facebook and the people at Hillsborough UCC, mom Scarlett said there's no doubt the blankets and socks were the perfect present for her child.
"The look on her face. The smile took over her face," Scarlett said. "That's her high. That's what gives her life meaning — that's what she's here for."
Scarlett said they just learned about a women's and children's shelter in nearby Durham, so she is planning on taking her daughter there so Maya can read to the children. "She's always helped the adult population, so this would help her connect with people her own age."
Reaching out with love to her friends, whether she's met them or not, is just Maya being Maya.
"People keep asking what made Maya think to do this, or what started this," Scarlett said. "She doesn't know how to answer (or has a hard time answering) because she's never really put much thought into it. It's just that she loves ALL people, and it's something that needs to be done so she does it."
Maya's love for her neighbors, which knows no bounds, is a joy to her mom, and her church family.
"I didn't raise her, the church did," Scarlett continued. "I'm a single parent. I couldn't do this on my own. For the first year of her life, I never held her on a Sunday — she just got passed around the church."
"It has been said, 'A little child shall lead them,'" Crawford said. "This young girl has inspired many and has warmed the hearts of all of her family, her friends and her church who have witnessed her generous and loving spirit...all given in Jesus' name."