Many of us likely spent our Thanksgivings with family and friends, passing the mashed potatoes and side-stepping politics as much as humanly possible.
But Thanksgiving at Wanda Dench’s house looks a little different.
In 2016, 59-year-old Wanda invited her teen grandson and his girlfriend over for Thanksgiving dinner via text. Or, at least, that’s who she thought she was inviting. Turns out, she was mistakenly inviting another teen, 17-year-old Jamal Hinton, over for Turkey Day.
Jamal asked Wanda to send a photo. You know, just to confirm they knew each other. They didn’t. “You not my grandma,” he texted back. “Can I still get a plate tho?”
“Of course you can,” Wanda said. “That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone.” And sure enough, Jamal showed up, and a lovely time was had by all.
Funny, sweet story, right? A couple of folks who might’ve had nothing in common with each other, sharing the holiday together? Great, but that was 2016, and we’ve got more important things to ponder. Like Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson.
But here’s the thing: It’s 2018 now, and Jamal and Wanda are still getting together for Thanksgiving. In fact, they have dinner every few months now.
“Gaining a new grandma, I thought maybe I’d gain one getting married, but as a friend, it’s great,” Jamal told CBS 5 in Mesa, Ariz.
We often talk in this space how technology sometimes creates barriers to honest-to-goodness connection. We text instead of talk, “like” instead of live with one another. Carefully crafted letters are almost extinct now, giving way to status updates and 280-character tweets. Social media can be anything but, and texts sometimes do nothing to augment togetherness.
All that’s true … unless we get intentional.
If Wanda and Jamal relegated their interactions to a series of funny texts, their relationship would’ve gone no farther, surely. But it went beyond that. The texts were about Thanksgiving, one of America’s most traditional holidays, when we gather together in one room—differences and all—and share a meal with one another. We’re face to face.. We hear each other laugh. And we move beyond status updates or possibly incendiary tweets and actually see each other a little more like God sees us: As people. It helps us get to know one another—even folks who we think we know quite well enough already.
Amazing what sharing dinner can do, isn’t it? Even if we don’t serve turkey.