Grandmother Shares 7th Thanksgiving Dinner With Randomly Texted Stranger


Jonathan Buscher

In 2016, a unique friendship formed between Wanda Dench, a grandmother, and the then 17-year-old Jamal Hinton after a texting snafu in Mesa, Arizona. The first accidental text was sent to Hinton saying that Thanksgiving dinner was at Dench’s house at 3:00 p.m. on November 24. Then Hinton, confused at the message, asked who sent it, to which the response was “Your grandma” with a grandma emoji. Still unsure that this was actually his own grandmother, Hinton asked for a picture, which Dench replied to, confirming that she was not, in fact, his biological grandmother, although Hinton still texted “Can I get a plate tho?” This sparked Dench to say “Of course you can. That’s what grandma’s do…feed everyone,” including a cake emoji for extra emphasis. 

And the rest was history, as the unlikely pair became somewhat of an internet sensation when their friendship, and story, expanded. Hinton shared the story on social media, gaining hundreds of thousands of people following the story of the two, with some users waiting for annual updates around Thanksgiving time. This year, Hinton posted on November 22, “To answer all your questions, yes Thanksgiving year 7 is planned out! See you guys Thursday!” following up with the signature emojis of his friend, including a black heart and turkey with the post. 

Although the friendship is going strong now, it, like many other relationships, has had its highs and lows over the past seven years. During the pandemic days of 2020, the celebration of the holiday was somewhat limited due to COVID-19, made especially difficult by the death of Dench’s husband Lonnie after the two were diagnosed with the virus in the spring of that year. Even through the hard times, Jamal and his girlfriend Mikaela still supported Dench, as they dropped off gifts and food at her house, along with posting on Twitter to gain support for the grandmother. 

Even with these hard times, the experiences together have had a major impact on both Dench and Hinton’s lives. Dench explained that “Jamal taught me that age made absolutely no difference. I love all of my grandkids and kids, but we all are different generations and we all reminisce about different things.” It changed both of their world views on the opposite generation, as Dench, Hinton, and their significant others often went out to dinner outside of Thanksgiving to chat, despite their age differences. 

The friendship even extended to business, as Hinton posted that “From year 1 as strangers, to year 7 as family but now BUSINESS PARTNERS! I’m very thankful for my family, friends, fans. Check out our website for our alkaline black water @” While it is somewhat surprising that  such a friendship extends this far, especially considering the age gap, the bond remains, the two say, even past all of the social media attention, as Hinton is “in [Dench’s] heart for life.” With Dench retiring and moving a few hours away from her previous home within the next year, Hinton will still visit her and spend Thanksgiving at her house.