Seventeen-year-old Jamal Hinton was sitting in class at Desert Vista High School when he heard a text message alert. He reached into his pocket, grabbed his cell, and checked the message.
“Thanksgiving dinner is at my house on Nov. 24 at 3pm. Let me know if you’re coming,” it read.
Jamal stared at his phone before setting it face-down on his desk, trying not to attract attention. Then he got curious and decided to text back. “Who is this?” he replied and watched the screen.
A few seconds later, the response came. “It’s your grandma.”
Did grandma get a new number? Jamal thought to himself. He looked around the classroom before deciding to text back and ask for proof. “Can I have a picture?” he typed and sent the message.
A minute later, the picture came back of a woman sitting at a desk in her office. Jamal smiled. It was definitely not his grandma. So Jamal decided to have some fun with this and send a picture back to the woman he was texting with. “You’re not my grandma,” he replied with his own picture.
Later, Jamal decided to send one more text. Half kidding, half serious. “Can I still get a plate?”
The response was immediate. “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do — feed everyone.”
If you’ve followed this story over the past week, you know how it ended. But as a writer, I know that I have to dig deeper and figure out what every story is really about, what everyone else writing about the text message mix-up just doesn’t seem to see. So let me tell you about what happened to Wanda Dench — the grandma — a few minutes after she exchanged texts with Jamal Hinton.
The high schooler wanted to share the kind exchange with Wanda, so he posted screenshots of the texts on Twitter. But he didn’t mask her cell number. The tweet was shared 200,000 times.
And that’s when the text messages started to roll in while Wanda was still at work.
There weren’t too many at first. Wanda read a few texts from strangers saying thank you for being so kind. Then more texts arrived from people asking if they could come over for Thanksgiving, too.
By the time she left work, Wanda had over 600 text messages asking to join her family for Thanksgiving. Grandmas feed everyone, she must have thought to herself, but I can’t feed 600.
Wanda changed her phone number the next day. She had to. The texts wouldn’t let up. But she saved Jamal’s number and kept her promise, welcoming him into her home on Thursday at 3pm.
When I thought about what Wanda did, I thought about the great quote from Andy Stanley:
Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.
That’s what this story was really about. Thanks for the very kind reminder, Grandma Dench.