Home Cooking

She helped the girl find herself. She helped the child become a woman. She helped the woman become a mother.

She was a pretty girl. A teenager. Dark skin. Black hair. And alone. She was standing in the canned soup aisle of the supermarket. Scared.

Miss Wilma—which isn’t her real name—was an elderly woman, reaching for a can of chicken broth from the top shelf.

She was going to make chicken and dumplings. It was a recipe that had been passed down from her great grandmother. It was a recipe which, women in her family claimed, could cure yellow fever, and croup. And on one occasion in Mount Dora, Florida, 1969, it prevented divorce.

The girl reached the top shelf for the old woman. She was a tall girl. Seventeen, almost eighteen.

A pang in Wilma’s gut told her something was wrong. There was something in the girl’s face. The girl looked terrified.

She started talking to the girl. Their conversation led Wilma to ask where the girl’s mother was.

“I don’t know,” the girl admitted. “I think I lost her.”

But the girl hadn’t lost her. The mother had left.

The girl’s mother had disappeared from the state, and left her daughter in the supermarket. The girl had been looking for her mother for hours.

“Why haven’t you asked for help?” asked Wilma.

“Because I don’t wanna get my mom in trouble,” the girl said.

Wilma was going page the woman over the supermarket intercom, but the teenager begged her not to.

“But,” said Wilma. “What’ll you do? How will you get home?”

The girl shrugged. “Ain’t got no home.”

The girl was from Jacksonville. But truthfully, she was from everywhere. She’d been living in a car with her mother, roaming highways since her early days. Her mother had a talent for falling in with the wrong people—which is how the woman had kept a drug habit going. Motels, RV parks, public shelters, those were her homes.

The girl hadn’t slept in a real bed in over a month, nor eaten a home cooked meal.

Wilma did what felt right. She took her home. She fed her. Chicken and dumplings the first night. Ham and scalloped potatoes the next. Baked spaghetti with meat sauce the night after that.

Wilma gave the girl her son’s old bedroom—a room still decorated in football memorabilia. Wilma heard the girl crying sometimes, late at night.

She was alone in this world. Except for Wilma.

So, Wilma kept the girl busy. Wilma was seventy years old, and driven. She called the girl her neice, and the girl called her “Aunt Wilma.”

And Aunt Wilma had purpose again. Women like Wilma need purpose. They need cheeks to kiss, and children to hug. It’s why they were born.

She taught the girl to garden. She taught the simple pleasure of digging in dirt and making things grow. She taught the girl to cook. And she adopted her.

She took the girl to church. The girl was a singer. She stood next to Miss Wilma every Sunday, singing with all her heart.

She helped the girl find herself. She helped the child become a woman. She helped the woman become a mother.

The girl went to college, and the rest of this story tells itself. The girl is no longer a girl at all. In fact, she is a middle-aged woman herself.

She still has faint memory of her biological mother—a woman she never saw again. But that memory is overshadowed by recollections of a woman she once met in a supermarket.

Even so, she’s kept her own story secret for most of her life. She’s only told her husband, her oldest son, and a few others. And she might very well keep this a secret until it’s her time to go.

“So why are you telling me?” I asked her.

“Because,” she wrote. “Aunt Wilma passed away eight years ago, and sometimes, I just find myself wanting someone to know what she did for me.”

Well. Then, by God, I will be that someone.

Rest easy, Aunt Wilma.


  1. Helen Bullard - August 23, 2018 5:51 am

    As we are on our walk in this our life – may our steps lead us to be an Aunt Wilma to those that we come across in what ever way we can. God bless the Aunt Wilmas ….

  2. Jeanne Butler - August 23, 2018 5:59 am

    Love you Sean❤️

  3. Mary - August 23, 2018 6:02 am


  4. Pamela McEachern - August 23, 2018 6:02 am

    Aunts and Uncles can change a child’s life, I was blessed with some of the best. Even though I am not blood related I have 3 very special boys that I adore and call me Aunt Pam, I want to be someone that can make a difference for them. Families don’t always share a bloodline. Thank goodness we get to choose.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  5. Beth Reed - August 23, 2018 8:11 am

    A wonderful way that Miss Wilma helped that girl. Sometimes all it takes is someone to care. And that’s so easy for anyone to do.
    So many people think that they are unworthy for anyone to care about them so they stop caring about themselves. We all need to be like be Miss Wilma and open our hearts to people that need some care and perhaps some chicken and dumplings as well. Good old fashioned soup for the Soul.
    I’m very happy that you shared her story. Have a Blessed Day Sean…. Beth Reed

  6. Linda - August 23, 2018 10:50 am

    God Bless Aunt Wilma~~~
    Beautiful story Sean, thank you.

  7. Linda - August 23, 2018 10:53 am

    I had goose bumps the whole time I was reading that story.
    Thank you so very much for sharing that story…today.

  8. LeAnne Martin - August 23, 2018 11:17 am

    Yes! Beautiful.

  9. Debbie - August 23, 2018 11:35 am

    What a beautiful story!

  10. MaryJane Breaux - August 23, 2018 11:47 am

    Glorious story of the best of humanity, Simple. Honest. Love. Once again you filled my heart and my eyes.

  11. Jackye Thompson - August 23, 2018 12:14 pm

    God Bless the women in the world like Aunt Wilma.God Bless.Jackye T

  12. Crystal Rogers - August 23, 2018 12:26 pm

    Excellent! I hope it is true. I choose to believe it is.

  13. Connie Havard Ryland - August 23, 2018 12:48 pm

    Thank you fir the tears this morning. God bless the caregivers of the world. And bless you for listening to our stories.

  14. MermaidGrammy - August 23, 2018 1:22 pm


  15. Betty F. - August 23, 2018 1:30 pm

    Sean- thanks for keeping Aunt Wilma’s legacy alive. Hope someday to be remembered this tenderly by someone.

  16. Anne - August 23, 2018 1:30 pm

    Tears. At work. Thank you for your wonderful stories.

  17. Steve Stutts - August 23, 2018 1:33 pm

    That’s beautiful.

  18. Karen - August 23, 2018 1:38 pm

    This is a deeply moving story for me. What an amazing woman Wilma was. This makes me want to do more for others, to give more. Thank you.

  19. Phillip Saunders - August 23, 2018 1:39 pm

    Great story. The world needs more Wilmas. Looking forward to seeing you in Tallassee Saturday night.

  20. Jack Darnell - August 23, 2018 1:49 pm

    i BELIEVE THERE ARE STILL PEOPLE like WILMA still in this world, but in the USA some government agency would interfere! However I LOVE the story, wonderful!!!

  21. perry5360 - August 23, 2018 1:58 pm

    Amen. T

  22. Edna B. - August 23, 2018 2:07 pm

    I once had someone like Aunt Wilma in my life. She is gone now, but I still love and miss her. Thank you for this beautiful story. Sean, you have a wonderful day. Hugs, Edna B.

  23. Pat - August 23, 2018 2:13 pm

    I’m so glad “the girl” found you to share her story with.

  24. Cheryl McWilliams - August 23, 2018 2:55 pm


  25. Kathy Daum - August 23, 2018 3:06 pm

    We can help one person at a time. With love.

  26. Sandra Smith - August 23, 2018 3:10 pm

    We need MORE Aunt Wilma’s in this world !

  27. Peggy Kennedy - August 23, 2018 3:11 pm

    I have no words to express how sweet, sad, and joyful this story is. It made me cry and smile at the same time. Thank you.

  28. cindymac - August 23, 2018 3:25 pm


  29. angelseyes71 - August 23, 2018 4:04 pm

    Your Divine Appointments just knock me over sometimes. How awesome that you were able to have this conversation, share it with us, and honor a woman who I’m sure didn’t give her selfless act a second thought. Thank you for keeping your heart open to in turn let us experience too.

    • Jones - August 23, 2018 7:46 pm


  30. Gordon - August 23, 2018 4:13 pm

    Stories such as this need retelling and retelling so that “the world” can be reminded of love, hope, peace, comfort, joy, relationships. Thank you, Sean for re-telling the young woman’s story. What a blessing!!

  31. Melodie - August 23, 2018 4:38 pm

    Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it for the ‘girl’ and Aunt Wilma. Maybe I should have had some of Aunt Wilma’s chicken and dumplings back in 1969. I was a teenage mama who went thru a divorce, living very close to Mt. Dora, Florida, here in Lake County. Well, on second thought, I’m glad I didn’t have Aunt Wilma’s homemade dinner, although it’s one of my favorites! 🙂

    Thank you always for the smiles and tears, Sean. 🙂

  32. Judith A Mercer - August 23, 2018 6:20 pm

    Thank God for the kind and giving hearts such as the Aunt Wilmas of the world….so many more that we never hear about…thank you, Sean, for telling us about her.

  33. Susan Swiderski - August 23, 2018 7:23 pm

    The world needs more Aunt Wilmas. Beautiful story, and I’ve learned. No more eye make-up for me until AFTER I read your post.

  34. Tami W Adams - August 23, 2018 7:39 pm

    I wish we all had an Aunt Wilma. But more than that, I wish we all could BE Aunt Wilma for someone.

  35. Marinan Brewer - August 23, 2018 9:08 pm

    way it should be done

  36. Penny Rooks - August 23, 2018 9:24 pm

    And you, Sean, are the someone who brings to all your readers your soul-satisfying stories to share so well. Thank you.

  37. Patricia Gibson - August 23, 2018 11:25 pm

    God bless Ain’t Wilma!

  38. Nancy Powell - August 24, 2018 3:26 am

    How precious! You touched my soul, along with Aunt Wilma! Rest in Peace, Aunt Wilma! God Bless you, Sean!

  39. C.E. HARBIN - August 24, 2018 6:57 am


  40. Penny Rooks - August 24, 2018 6:12 pm

    And, you BECAME “that someone” — again and again. Your work stuns emotionally and is also very practical — a rather rare combination. Keep your flame alive.

  41. Robert Chiles - August 26, 2018 12:50 am


  42. Steve Winfield - August 26, 2018 4:56 am

    You have a knack for finding them. Beyond my comprehension. Whatever the reason it certainly enlightens your regulars. Mission accomplished.

  43. Mary Ellen Hall - August 27, 2018 9:14 am


  44. Jody - August 27, 2018 7:21 pm

    Compassionate people are the hands and heart of Christ. Thanks Sean for this wonderful message

  45. Jan Bruck - August 27, 2018 9:23 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful!

  46. Janet Mary Lee - August 28, 2018 7:15 pm

    Amen, Aunt Wilma!

  47. Sherry - October 19, 2018 11:28 am

    Thank you for sharing your gift.

  48. Jackie Burke Clinansmith - October 19, 2018 2:24 pm

    Oh now this one…wow. So very glad she told her story.


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