Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 27, 2013

A Christmas without family

By Lindsey Ziliak
Kokomo Tribune

---- — I woke up Wednesday morning, and all was quiet.

I shuffled out into the silence, rubbed my eyes and looked around.

My dad wasn’t in the kitchen whipping up a Christmas morning breakfast of waffles, pancakes, bacon or whatever else he could find.

My 22-year-old sister wasn’t kneeling under the tree shaking her presents around like she always does, trying to guess what she got.

In fact, there was no Christmas tree at all. There were no lights, nothing to make it feel like it was anything other than an ordinary Wednesday.

I was alone in my apartment on Christmas day with my family 221 miles away.

In 26 years, I had never spent a Christmas alone. I was sad.

There was no way I was sitting by myself all day. I couldn’t. I’d end up bawling, missing my family.

So I drove to Main Street United Methodist Church.

Kokomo Urban Outreach had set up shop there for the Christmas blitz. They were packing 1,500 sack lunches for people in need in our community.

I showed up to lend a hand. If I couldn’t have the Christmas I wanted, maybe I could make sure others did.

More than 200 people joined me. So many people gave up part of their Christmas to help others. There were tiny kids, old men, teens, married couples, whole families.

Some made sandwiches. Others wrapped gifts in case families needed those, too. Then there were people like me who packed all of the food into grocery sacks for delivery.

I was in charge of packing the bananas and oranges.

It was loud and boisterous in the fellowship center. People laughed and sang Christmas carols. Others happily chatted as they worked.

I found out the kid to my left, who was opening grocery sacks for me, is a freshman on the Kokomo High School basketball team.

Others asked me questions, genuinely interested in my story.

Before I knew it, we were done. In 26 minutes, 1,500 sacks had been packed with ham sandwiches, fruit, cookies and chips.

I smiled, feeling much better about Christmas. I thought my work was done, but someone had other plans for me.

There weren’t enough people to deliver all of the lunches. Two women, a Nancy and Vicki, asked if I could help them make deliveries to an apartment complex.

Of course, I could. I had all the time in the world.

So for the next two hours we knocked on hundreds of doors, checking on people and asking them if they wanted a meal.

Every time someone opened a door, I got a glimpse of their Christmas. I saw happy children sitting under their Christmas trees, still in their pajamas. Some showed off the toys they got.

One girl had left a sign on her door that said, “Santa, Come in here. We don’t have a chimney.”

She also drew a picture of a tree with an arrow pointing to it that said, “Put presents here.”

Many families had plenty of food to eat and declined our meals. But some graciously accepted.

One woman told us she had fallen on hard times and really needed that lunch Wednesday. One man was sitting alone in the dark in his apartment when we knocked on the door. He said we were the first people who had reached out and visited him in quite some time. He smiled and took a meal.

Nancy, Vicki and I knocked on the last door by 1:30 p.m. We chatted a few minutes before parting ways.

I drove back to my own apartment tired and cold but surprisingly, happy.

It wasn’t the Christmas I had hoped for, but it’s one I will never forget. I set out to help others have a good Christmas, but they helped me have a great one instead.

- Lindsey Ziliak

[friday] editor / alone on Christmas