Grandma and man she accidentally invited to Thanksgiving reflect on their 6-year tradition

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 3:41 PM EST
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MESA, Ariz. (KPHO/KTVK) - It was a text that changed their lives and turned into a Thanksgiving tradition going six years strong.

By now the world knows the story of how Wanda Dench accidentally texted Jamal Hinton in 2016 for Thanksgiving dinner thinking she had texted her grandson.

Even after Hinton told her he wasn’t her real grandson, Dench invited him anyway.

That year they got together for the holiday, thinking it would be a onetime thing.

Now they count their blessings that it wasn’t.

“It feels really good inside to know that I bring people joy,” Jamal Hinton said.

When asked what it is about their story that draws people in, Dench replies that it is because it’s a feel-good story.

“There’s a lot, but people want a feel-good story,” she said.

The two have celebrated more than just Thanksgiving together, including Christmases, birthdays, and exciting new opportunities that have come their way.

“All of this kind of helped me figure out what I wanted to do in life,” Hinton said, adding that he is now pursuing an acting career.

Dench and Hinton have also experienced loss together too when Dench’s husband passed away from COVID-19 last year, their first year spending Thanksgiving without him.

Dench credits social media for helping her through it.

“I get so many people giving condolences and they’re so genuine and so uplifting,” she said.

This story almost never happened had Dench not responded when Hinton jokingly said he’d come over for a Thanksgiving plate that first year.

Yet the tradition built on a unique friendship continues in 2021.

“If I had never then I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” Dench said. “I’ve changed my view so much on the younger generation, and now that I’ve reflected back on all these years, I didn’t change their life, they changed mine.”

Copyright 2021 KPHO/KTVK via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.