An Arizona Grandma Accidentally Invited A Teen To Thanksgiving, But They Soon Became Firm Friends

Thanksgiving is a special holiday – and one usually spent with family and friends. But when this grandmother thought she had invited her grandson to her Thanksgiving 2016 dinner, she soon learned that she had texted the wrong number. Still, what followed in the subsequent text exchange actually led to a situation for which both parties would be truly thankful.

And it all started with a simple message given to let the host know how many guests were coming and to inform them as to the time to arrive. Wanda Dench – a grandmother in Mesa, Arizona – had been making plans for her Thanksgiving dinner, and her daughter suggested group texting the family with the details. But one of the replies Dench got was not what anyone was expecting.

Specifically, Dench texted, “Thanksgiving dinner is at my house on Nov. 24 at 3:00 p.m. Let me know if you’re coming. Hope to see you all. Of course that includes Amanda & Justin.” However, this straightforward request in order to get a headcount led to a very intriguing conversation.

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Curiously, the reply from the number she had for her grandson Randall Burgoyne came back asking her who she was. But when she explained it was his grandma, the exchange got even more bizarre, as Dench received yet another text asking her to send a photo. And although she was a little confused by the response, Dench nonetheless sent off a selfie.

At Desert Vista High School that day was 17-year-old Phoenix student Jamal Hinton. While in class he received a group text from a number he didn’t recognize. And when she claimed it was his grandma, he was a little surprised, as he hadn’t known her to text. Nevertheless, Hinton thought that she must have purchased a new phone – so asked for a photo to confirm his suspicions.

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What Dench hadn’t known, though, is that her grandson had changed his number in May and had forgotten to give his grandma the new number. So when Hinton sent a picture back to prove she had the wrong number, Dench felt a little embarrassed. However, the exchange didn’t end there.

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Of course, most miscalls or wrong number communications would have ended there, with perhaps an apology from the original sender for making the mistake – if that person was polite. But Hinton, as a joke, asked if he could come to Dench’s Thanksgiving dinner anyway. He texted, “Can I still get a plate tho?”

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To his surprise, though, Dench replied, “Of course you can, that’s what grandmas do… feed everyone!” Still, she had her doubts that Hinton would accept the invitation after seeing her picture. Hinton, meanwhile, genuinely touched by the gesture, proceeded to share the exchange on social media.

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As a result, the attention was pretty intense. “I was like, wow, she is really nice, I should really go. She seems really sweet. Just a nice lady I guess,” Hinton told Phoenix-based TV station KSAZ before the Thanksgiving meal. But Dench would get more than she bargained for, as Hinton had shared a screenshot of their conversation and tweeted, “Somebody’s grandma is coming in clutch this year!!! Ayee!!!” And, as heartwarming stories often do on Twitter, the message exploded.

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Indeed, the tweet has, as of December 2016, generated more than 400,000 likes and nearly a quarter of a million retweets, with many expressing how cute the situation was. Unfortunately, though, Dench’s number was right there accessible to all of them, so within hours she received more than 600 texts from strangers asking if they could come to dinner, too.

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Not surprisingly, Dench changed her number. But she still remained upbeat about the experience. “The kindness I’ve received from people sending me comments is just unbelievable,” she told CNN in late November. And though she may have revoked access to her number, the invitation to Hinton remained.

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As for Dench’s grandson, he took the whole situation in his stride. “[My grandma] and my mother both always welcomed any of my friends or anybody who wanted to come to our holidays,” Burgoyne responded in a USA Today interview. So it was no great shock when, not wanting to separate Hinton from his family on Thanksgiving, Dench invited them as well.

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“[I] grew up in a military family. My dad is Navy, so we would invite vets over that we didn’t know for Thanksgiving,” Dench told Phoenix’s FOX 10. “So it’s not uncommon, but I haven’t done that for quite a long time.”

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Burgoyne added to USA Today, “This has come out of nowhere for us, and it’s funny to my family. My grandma’s got a big heart, and said she wouldn’t want [Hinton] to be away from his family on Thanksgiving.” And though his family stayed home, Hinton accepted the invitation and arrived on Dench’s doorstep on time.

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When Hinton arrived, in fact, Dench gave the stranger a big hug and took to describing him as her “honorary grandson.” “I’m so happy you came,” Dench said as the pair greeted each other for the first time. “I am too,” replied Hinton – and then admitted that he’d been so flustered that he’d forgotten to bring the pumpkin pie he promised.

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But the food at the Dench house was plentiful. In fact, she had cooked not one but two turkeys, expecting so many mouths to feed. And as the pair sat next to each other for dinner, Hinton claimed he had “found a new grandma.” During the meal, moreover, they had to take the obligatory selfie, which Hinton shared to Twitter saying, “So this just happened.”

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“I’d never seen her before and she welcomed me into her home. That shows me how much of a great person she is. I’m thankful for people like that,” Hinton told ABC15 after the event. And that’s what Hinton and Dench seem to have in common: both evidently have open hearts and open minds.

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What’s more, their appreciation for each other comes during a stressful time of social upheaval in the United States. Perhaps, then, the attention that Dench’s demonstration of generosity has received shows just how much the nation wanted a story reflecting the good in people. “We feel like it was fate that this occurred during such a rough time and right before Thanksgiving,” her daughter, Lisa, said to the Arizona Republic.

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“I hope this shows people we don’t need to care about the color of someone’s skin, or even if we know each other, to know that we can all get along,” Hinton added to the newspaper. Dench, however, told Connecticut affiliate FOX 61, “This wasn’t me, it’s come from God above. He’s just using us as his tools and vessels to bring a message to others.”

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“He was just as nice as could be,” she added to CNN. “We got to eat food, and he told me about his plans for the future, and I am just so excited for him. If you have an opportunity to do something kind for somebody, please, please do,” she concluded. “It’s a good feeling to give kindness, and it’s a wonderful feeling to receive it.”

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