The Woman in the Purple Hat

Today may have been one of my favorite grocery shopping experiences yet.

My endeavor for this week is to attempt beef stew for the first time. Since I’ve never made it before, my list of ingredients was a bit foreign to me when I headed to the grocery store this morning. But, since Pinterest always knows best, I trusted that items like “dry onion soup mix”  and “beef gravy” would be easy to find if I would just be so bold as to explore new aisles at the grocery store.

Not so much.

After staring at the seasoning section for a few minutes, searching as hard as I could for that dry onion soup mix, a woman turned the corner and started in my direction. If I were to guess, I’d say she was around the age of 60 – older and wiser enough than me to definitely trust that she knew a thing or two about making beef stew. She had on jeans, a purple sweatshirt, a matching purple ball cap, and warm eyes.

She paused when she got to me, glanced down at the can of beef gravy in my hand, tapped it and said, “Now that’s good stuff! That’s what I always use.”

At first I was too startled by her friendliness to think to ask any more questions. So I simply said, “Oh, really? Thank you! Good to know.” We exchanged smiles and she pressed on down the aisle.

Quickly realizing she may have been the perfect person to ask, I thought, “Wait! What about dry onion powder soup?! I should have asked her where to look!”

Frustrated with my forgetfulness, I stood there a few more minutes, determined to find it.

Still nothing.

All of a sudden, I saw bright purple in my peripherals. I looked up quickly, and to my surprise, it was her again! She passed me, making her way back down the aisle.

“Oh, excuse me! I have a question… ” In hindsight, I probably sounded all too eager.

“Oh yes, ask away!”

I was still pleasantly in a bit of shock at her kindness, to be honest.

“So… ” I began.

She glanced at me, down at my shopping cart, and back at me again and grinned.

“You’re a new cook, aren’t you?” she asked me.

“Ha, well.. sort of,” I responded. She read my only-three-years-into-marriage-new-mommy exercise pants and hoodie like an open book.

My have-it-together facade slowly became more and more stripped from me as I looked into her honest, gentle eyes. I felt my heart softening as I became less and less embarrassed that she’d called my bluff. Her comforting, kind spirit was what the Lord used to teach me this ever so beautiful lesson in humility.

God, you’ve done it again. You’ve caught me off guard and completely undone me with grace. And once again, undeserved.

“Oh no, don’t be shy! It’s okay! This is good. What was it you were looking for?”

“Um, dry onion powder soup…?” My eyes met her’s.


She was so patient and genuine.

“Will I find it on this aisle?” I asked.

“Nope. Follow me!”

She kept talking as she walked with her back towards me. I followed, almost without thinking twice.

“You don’t really need that dry onion soup if you have the gravy,” she continued. “You can use both if you want lots of flavor, but either can stand alone, really.”

Ten minutes ago we were strangers. Neither of us knew the other existed. And now she carried on with me as if we’d know each other for years.

As we passed by the people who worked at the store, she chatted with them like they were old friends. It became apparent to me that she’d been a regular here for quite some time.

We finally made it to the correct aisle (which, in case any of you are as clueless when it comes to making stew as I am, would be the soup aisle if you’re looking for dry onion soup mix.. go figure). We stood there a few more minutes as she took the time to explain how to make a basic beef stew, step by step, detail for detail.

When she had finished, she gave me a big, heartfelt grin. I’ll never forget her warmth.

“Have a good day!” she said, turning to walk away. I wanted to hug her.

Oh, how I wish I would have gotten her name.

If there’s one thing we learned from the woman in the purple hat (other than how to make an amazing beef stew), it is that kindness and compassion are never the wrong answer.

I may never see her again, but I hope she knows the difference she made today. She will forever be apart of my story. It’s the smallest moments that have the greatest potential for finding beauty.

4 Replies to “The Woman in the Purple Hat”

  1. What a wonderful experience you had with this special lady! Great writing sweetie, excited to see you and baby Lucy soon! Muah!

  2. Great article. There are lots of great people in this world as proven, you just met one of them.

    Love, Nonners

  3. Athena Peterson says: Reply

    Dear Alex,
    What a sweet story and so well written by you! You are amazing and we love you so much. See you soon. Aunt Athena

  4. So encouraging to always have that inviting smile no matter where you go. Thanks for your wonderful insightful truths! 🙂

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