Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench have a special friendship that has inspired people all around the world — and it all started due to an accidental text message.
Back in 2016, Dench thought she was texting her grandson, who had just changed his cell phone number, when she invited Hinton, who was 17 at the time, to Thanksgiving dinner.
After some joking back and forth, Hinton actually accepted the invitation, and now six Thanksgivings later, their tradition of gathering for the holiday is still going strong.
"Today marks our 6th Thanksgiving together," Hinton tweeted Thursday, sharing a picture of himself with Dench and his girlfriend, Mikaela, who was also invited to dinner. In the photo, Dench, 64, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, is holding a pic of her late husband, Lonnie, who died of COVID in April 2020, while Hinton holds artwork that depicts Lonnie as an angel.
The replies to this touching story of friendship were just as passionate as ever when people saw the pictures.
"Absolutely beautiful. Thank y’all for sharing all of this with us. We need it," wrote one person.
"Love seeing this every year," posted another person about what has become a special tradition, not just for Hinton and Dench, but for people all over the world.
"This is all I care about on Twitter today," replied another commenter.
During an appearance earlier this month on TODAY, Hinton and Dench discussed how much the tradition means to them. They also shared that they get together during the year, not just for Thanksgiving.
“This story has been amazing from the start to the finish,” Hinton, who said he received that very first text message while in math class, told the TODAY team. “I’ve been enjoying almost every second of it. I was just telling Wanda the other day how it actually helps me get through the year sometimes to see so many uplifting comments, to see so many people looking forward to our story, that I just love it all.”
And while Dench revealed that Thanksgiving isn't her favorite holiday and she doesn't consider herself an expert cook, she said her whole life has been changed by the situation.
“For me, it’s been such a journey,” Dench said. “It’s been awesome. I mean, things I never expected. I remember the first year when I was reading some of those messages and people were saying how we changed their lives, that they have faith in humanity again. And I was just so blown away by all those comments.
“Now, five years later, I realize, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re the ones who changed my life.’ It’s been awesome. What an awesome journey. I never would’ve expected this.”