November 21, 2023

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so, I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” – Psalm 28:7

It was in 2016 that a text message to a wrong number started something special. Jamal Hinton received a text message from Wanda Dench. Wanda wanted to make sure her grandson knew he was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Jamal, who was a teenager at the time, was surprised that his grandma had learned to text. He asked for a photo to prove it was his grandma. Wanda sent a photo and Jamal knew it was not his grandma. Wanda had texted the wrong person. Jamal replied, “Can I still get a plate tho?” Wanda replied, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do.”

Jamal was so surprised at Wanda’s kindness and willingness to invite him over. He wanted to meet her and so the first “Thanksgiving with Grandma” took place. For the past eight years Jamal has joined Wanda at Thanksgiving dinner. They have become family now. In an interview on the Today Show, Wanda said, “Jamal literally changed my life and my point of view on young generations about being open to friendships when you think you have nothing in common with somebody. But when you just sit and talk to them? Oh my gosh … He’s in my heart for life.”

The friendship between Jamal and Wanda is a wonderful story of hospitality and kindness. This story could have ended so quickly, but they allowed a wrong number to open the possibility of a new friendship. Wanda’s willingness to share her home with a perfect stranger was brave and generous. Jamal and Wanda have inspired so many people with their willingness to open their hearts to one another. They now have a special and unique friendship.

Our faith calls us beyond ourselves. We are to be hospitable to strangers. If people are hungry, we are to be generous with what we have.  It is truly a joyful thing to care for one another. It is a blessing to welcome an opportunity to love and serve others. Wanda and Jamal remind us that kindness, hospitality, and love of neighbor will always bring joy. This is a good reminder to us all. As we prepare our own tables for Thanksgiving, let us look for ways to express kindness, care for others, and welcome one another to the table.

– Rev. Keith King, Pastor of Worship