Three years ago, a story hit the news that was different from 95% of the news you see out there. Maybe you saw it then, but let’s remember it now. Wanda Dench, a grandma in Mesa, Arizona, sent a text message to someone she thought was her grandson, asking if he would be coming to Thanksgiving dinner. What she didn’t know was that she’d mistyped the number, and her text went to 20-year-old Jamal Hinton of Phoenix.
Jamal quickly figured out the text was from a grandma, but he thought, “When did my grandma learn to text?” So he asked her to send a selfie so he would know who this other person was. When her photo came through, it was clear it was some grandma other than his! (Dench is white and Hinton’s grandma is African-American.)
Even after they realized the mix-up, Hinton jokingly asked if he could still get a plate at Thanksgiving dinner. Dench’s response was, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do…feed every one.”
Full stop for a minute. How cool is that?! And how true! We know something about that, because that’s what St. Peter’s does too…we feed every one.
Hinton was a little hesitant to go to a stranger’s Thanksgiving dinner, but once he actually met Dench and her husband in person, he saw what kind people they were and decided to go spend the time with her and her family. It turned out to be one of the best things he ever did.
Fast forward to today. Hinton has spent every Thanksgiving at Dench’s house since then, and he always posts a selfie with the two of them on social media (which then promptly goes viral). Last year, he brought his girlfriend Mikaela along. What did they all do together? Sat around the table and talked about their lives for a couple of hours, just telling stories and enjoying being together. Last year, she gave him the board game Monopoly, and this year he plans to bring it so they can all play together.
Hinton and Mikaela are planning to move into their own apartment the day before Thanksgiving this year, so they will probably head over to Dench’s house again, but one day they would like to return the favor and host Dench and her husband for a change. Next year, he says.
As you welcome people to your table this Thanksgiving and Christmas, think of the parable of Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench. They could have let fear and prejudice divide them, but instead they took the time to meet, to listen to each other, to connect on a deeper human level by sharing a meal and sharing their lives. This is the kind of thing that can change and heal the world.
This coming month we will prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Just as he came unexpectedly more than two thousand years ago, he comes unexpectedly today, through people who might be different from us, and those whom we would least expect. Let us open our homes, our tables, our minds, and our hearts to the ways Christ comes among us every day.
Together in Christ,