It’s a story of fate that sounds straight out of a Hallmark holiday film. Back in 2016, in an attempt to make Thanksgiving plans with her grandson, Wanda Dench accidentally texted a stranger about coming to Thanksgiving dinner. The recipient of that text, a then-17-year-old, Jamal Hinton.
The two exchanged what has now become a viral series of text messages. After he jokingly asked if he could join anyway, Dench welcomed him, and they became friends.
What started as an accidental text exchange turned into viral posts on social media whereby the internet was following along with this unlikely pairing for a Thanksgiving to remember.
For the past six years since their first Thanksgiving together, Jamal and Wanda have kept the tradition going. They were able to safely gather during covid, following the death of Wanda’s husband. And over the years their friendship has continued to inspire others and restore faith in humanity.
This year, Jamal and Wanda are teaming up with Airbnb to bring others in on their Thanksgiving tradition.
Wanda is opening her home in Prescott, Arizona for one night this month, where two guests will get to join her and Jamal for their annual Thanksgiving dinner. The cost is just $16, an ode to the year 2016, when Wanda and Jamal met.
“I said from the jump of our first Thanksgiving that I always wanted to have more people join our Thanksgiving and be able to celebrate with us and have the amount of fun that we have together,” Jamal told USA Today.
The stay will take place Nov. 20 and is good for up to two people. Prospective guests can request to book on Airbnb’s website beginning Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. EDT.
Those looking to book will have to 18 and older as per Airbnb’s guidelines and have a verified profile and good track record on the platform.
The dinner will be everyone’s Thanksgiving favorites including Wanda’s not-so-homemade pumpkin pie.
“I used to make good pumpkin pie, but Costco can do it better than me, so we’re having my favorite Costco pumpkin pie,” said Dench, 66.
They also like to play board games. “I have a whole closetful, so I’ll let everybody pick,” she said.
Of course, guests will also get to join in on the pair’s annual Thanksgiving selfie—an internet staple since their first Thanksgiving back in 2016.
The pair is looking forward to meeting new people and sharing in the thing that first brought them together.
“For me, it’s always the great conversations,” Jamal said. “I mean, me and Wanda, we talk about anything. We talked about tattoos, we talk about conspiracies that we think of, we talk about our families, we talk about our goals and our future and things that we want to accomplish and do.”
Over the years, Wanda and Jamal have remained great friends and constants in each others’ lives. They know each others’ families and have truly embodied friendship. Wanda hopes their story inspires others and helps people open their hearts and homes to people they may not have otherwise.
“That would be pretty cool to see people wanting to share a good experience and then open it up to other strangers as well.”