Thanksgiving kindness abounds as America prepares for a different kind of holiday

The generosity and compassion shown by people around the country lifts holiday spirits just when we need it the most.


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Wanda and Jamal
From left, Wanda Dench, her husband Lonnie Dench, Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela Autumn

For many Americans, this year’s Thanksgiving will be unlike any other they can remember.

With the coronavirus still rampant across much of the country, the CDC is strongly urging people not to travel for the holiday or gather in large groups. Many are reluctantly heeding that advice and preparing for a significantly scaled down feast.

However, one thing that is not in short supply this Thanksgiving season is the milk of human kindness and the bonds of compassion that hold us together. If anything, it seems like they are stronger than ever.

Among the most striking of the many examples around the country is the Arizona grandmother who insisted on keeping her tradition of passing the meal with a young stranger she accidentally met four years ago despite the loss of her own husband to the virus in April.

Then, there is the college professor in Iowa who went viral on Twitter after her offer to cook Thanksgiving dinner for students she feared would be lonely during the holiday. Her kindness brought some of her students to tears, even more so because she is a non-American who admitted she didn’t really get Thanksgiving.

Another act of kindness that stands out is the determination of the Prince Hall Masons of Cincinnati to carry out their annual distribution of Thanksgiving meals despite all the obstacles that covid has placed in their way.

The group set a new record, providing a full dinner with all of the sides and trimmings to over one thousand families.

These people, and thousands others like them across the country, are our heroes of the holiday.

In particular, the story of “Grandma Wanda” and Jamal has captured the public’s imagination this Thanksgiving.

Four years ago, Wanda Dench accidentally invited a stranger to her Thanksgiving dinner via text message. Wanda thought she had messaged her own grandson to come over but her invite went to then-teenager Jamal Hinton. She told the youngster to stop by for dinner anyway and the two have celebrated Thanksgiving together ever since.

However, this year the pandemic changed everything.

Because of covid, Wanda and Jamal decided to celebrate their fifth Thanksgiving last week in Mesa, Arizona, in a scaled-down fashion. What is more, one very special person was not there this year. After 43 years of marriage, Wanda’s husband, Lonnie Dench, passed away in April from complications caused by Covid-19.

“I didn’t want to miss Thanksgiving with Jamal,” Wanda told local news outlet Arizona Family. “This year is definitely different than all the years in the past.”

She said she knew her first Thanksgiving without him would be difficult, but Jamal and his girlfriend Mikaela would make sure she wouldn’t be lonely this holiday. A seat and candle was left at the head of the table, knowing even though Lonnie isn’t here, his spirit is. Jamal knew he would hear this.

“I would just like to say hi, say thank you for welcoming me into your home with open arms from day one,” Jamal told the outlet.

Meanwhile, University of Iowa lecturer Liz Pearce has become a viral sensation after sending an email to her students offering a homecooked meal and compassion to those who might have to spend Thanksgiving alone or away from family because of the pandemic.

The native of England told local station KCRG she just wanted to make sure college kids knew someone cared.

Little did she know that her kind gesture would touch the hearts of so many.

“So many people who read it said it brought a tear to their eye and it made me realize just how vulnerable maybe as a nation we are right now,” said Pearce.

Liz Pearce (University of Iowa)

“I thought it was so cute I sent it to my friend group, she’s so wholesome,” said Leah Blask, a student of Pearce’s who originally tweeted the email.

Blask’s roughly 1,000 followers have shared it, commented on it and spread it to more than half a million people.

Finally, we salute the Prince Hall Masons of Cincinnati whose generosity brightened the holiday for over one thousand people in their area.

The group’s Frank Bowen said this year’s giveaway exceeded expectations, according to local outlet WLWT.

“This has been a wonderful day,” he said.

Another member, Jason House said: “To get up to 1,000 in a time of pandemic, especially when we didn’t even think we were going to have the event is a blessing in disguise.”

At this Thanksgiving, we at Crazy America share our gratitude for all of these people and the many more like them that show this country at its best.

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