LINCOLN — Elizabeth Ostermeier was hesitant when she first walked through the doors of the Tabitha Green House residence with the group of carolers on Christmas morning.
But as the 7-year-old and her twin brother, Noah, started passing out caroling books to the elderly residents, smiles slowly spread across their faces.
"I think this is so awesome for them," Trish Ostermeier, Elizabeth's mother, said. "It shows them different generations and gives them a chance to provide happiness to someone that needs it."
Usually Elizabeth and Noah spend Christmas with their grandparents, but this year they joined members of Christ Lutheran Church to brighten the holidays with song.
Every year congregation members visit hospitals or nursing homes on Christmas day to sing with residents in the church's neighborhood.
"It almost blesses us more than than anything," worship leader Steve Wells said. "Just to be able to talk to people that we normally aren't able to, it's good for us and them to be around new people."
Wells hoped the caroling helped the residents, some of whom might not otherwise have any family or visitors on Christmas.
"It provides them happiness and a sense of normalcy," Trish Ostermeier said. "It gives them a chance to see the outside world again and visit and socialize with people. And it's a way to let them know that we do care about them."
As the group gathered in the living room at the Good House Tabitha residence and sang, a resident reached out her hand toward Elizabeth.
The little girl joined hands with her and scooted closer to her wheelchair as they sang together. The woman looked over at Elizabeth and smiled for the first time since the carolers arrived — having someone there was a gift enough.
"We talked a lot this morning about the real meaning of Christmas," Ostermeier said. "And I think they know now it's not about the presents."