It’s Thanksgiving, which means Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench are celebrating the holiday together — an annual tradition sparked five years ago by a viral text exchange.
The unlikely duo’s tradition of enjoying the holiday together started in 2016, when Dench mistakenly sent a text message to Hinton inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner. The message had been meant for Dench’s grandson, a mistake that her unintended recipient quickly discerned. However, once this was revealed, the then 59-year-old grandmother didn’t seem bothered by the mixup at all. Rather, Dench responded to then 17-year-old Hinton’s joking request for a plate with a sincere invitation to join them anyway.
The wholesome text exchange quickly went viral after Hinton posted it online. And the story got even better when Hinton decided to take Dench up on her offer.
Meeting up with a random stranger you’ve only exchanged a few texts with is generally a bad idea. Fortunately Hinton and Dench proved themselves to be the heartwarming exceptions to the rule, meeting up that Thanksgiving and establishing a heartwarming new holiday tradition.
Hinton and Dench’s unexpected friendship has flourished in the years since, with 2021 marking the sixth Thanksgiving they have spent together. However, though the dinner table is no less welcoming than it was before, it has become a little quieter than when they began. Dench’s beloved husband Lonnie passed away early last year after the couple contracted COVID-19, making this the second Thanksgiving Hinton and Dench have celebrated without him.
“I get so many people giving condolences, and they’re just so genuine and so uplifting,” Dench told Arizona’s Family reporter Briana Whitney, describing her internet fame and how social media helped her through her loss.
Grandma and stranger she accidentally texted celebrate Thanksgiving together for a fourth year
“If I had never [texted Hinton back], then I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” said Dench. “I changed my view totally of the younger generation, and now that I reflect back on all these years, I didn’t change their life, they changed mine.”