Feel-Good Friday: Thanks to a Wrong Text, a Thanksgiving Tradition Enters Its 6th Year

Screenshot, Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton. Credit: KTVK

Today of all days, the story of Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton needs to be told. Not only because it’s a wonderful lead-in to Thanksgiving week, but it is a beautiful image of the America that I know, and that still exists, despite forces at work trying to destroy it.

In 2016, Jamal Hinton received a text from Wanda Dench. Dench thought she was contacting her grandson to check in on his plans for Thanksgiving, but got Hinton instead. Hinton, a 17-year-old high school senior at the time, told NBC News that he asked Dench to send a picture. Dench did, and Hinton returned in kind with a message that said,

“You ain’t my grandma, but can I still have a plate?

Dench replied,

“Of course—that’s what Grandma’s do!”

Hinton and his girlfriend Michaela did just that, and a beautiful tradition was born.

Fast forward to 2021, and Hinton and Michaela have kept the tradition alive.

Dench and Hinton both live in Arizona, about an hour apart, so over the six years, they have gotten together in between, to double-date with Dench’s husband Lonnie. Hinton and Michaela are now extended family. This year, it is a particular comfort, since Lonnie Dench passed away in March due to complications from COVID-19.

In his honor, the bonded family of Dench and her daughter (with the blood grandson), and Jamal and Michaela did an early celebration together.

Now 22 years old, Hinton said in a “Today Show” retrospective of their relationship,

“I would say, don’t really judge people when you look at them.”

This is how the world should be, and this is what Thanksgiving is all about: bringing people together, not tearing them apart. It’s a reminder to be thankful for what you have, and despite our differences, what you have are people to share life with.

Happy Friday! And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving with immediate, extended, and bonded loved ones.