Inviting The World To Dinner
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Unidentified Man #1: I believe in adaptation.
Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in a silver lining.
Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that being flexible keeps me going.
Unidentified Man #2: I believe every single person deserves to be acknowledged.
Unidentified Man #3: This I believe.
(Soundbite of music)
BLOCK: Today's This I Believe essay comes from a man one of our staff members met in Paris. Each Sunday, Jim Haynes holds a supper at his apartment and the door is open to anyone who wants to come. Haynes estimates over a hundred thousand people have joined him for dinner. Here's our series curator, independent producer, Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: Jim Haynes was born in Louisiana, but he has lived in Europe since he was 20 in Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, and for many years now, Paris. He considers himself an entrepreneur in the arts. He has helped found theaters, bookshops, galleries and magazines, but he finds his belief in the non-professional setting, his dinner table. Here's Jim Haynes, recorded in his Paris apartment with his essay for This I Believe.
JIM HAYNES: Every week for the past 30 years, I host a Sunday dinner in my home in Paris. People, including total strangers, call or Email to book a spot. I hold the salon in my atelier, which used to be a sculpture studio. The first 50 or 60 people who call may come, and twice that many when the weather is nice and we can overflow into the garden. Every Sunday, a different friend prepares a feast. Last week, it was a philosophy student from Lisbon. And next week a dear friend from London will cook. People from all corners of the world come to break bread together, to meet, to talk, connect and often become friends. All ages, nationalities, races, professions gather here, and since there is no organized seating, the opportunity for mingling couldn't be better. I love the randomness. I believe in introducing people to people. I have a good memory, so each week I make a point to remember everyone's name on the guest list and where they're from and what they do, so I can introduce them to each other, effortlessly. If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to each other. People are the most important thing in my life. Many travelers go to see things like the Tower of London, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and so on. I travel to see friends, even or especially those I've never met. In the late'80s, I edited a series of guidebooks to nine Eastern European countries and Russia. There were no sights to see, no shops or museums to visit, instead, each book contained about a thousand short biographies of people who would be willing to welcome travelers in their cities. Hundreds of friendships evolved from these encounters, including marriages and babies, too. This same can be said for my Sunday salon. At a recent dinner, a six-year-old girl from Bosnia spent the entire evening glued to an eight-year-old boy from Estonia. Their parents were surprised, and pleased, by this immediate friendship. There is always a collection of people from all over the globe. Most of them speak English, at least as a second language. Recently, a dinner featured a typical mix, a Dutch political cartoonist, a beautiful painter from Norway, a truck driver from Arizona, a bookseller from Atlanta, a newspaper editor from Sydney, students from all over, and traveling retirees. I have long-believed that it is unnecessary to understand others, individuals or nationalities. One must, at the very least, simply tolerate others. Tolerance can lead to respect and, finally, to love. No one can ever really understand anyone else, but you can love them, or at least accept them. Like Tom Paine, I am a world citizen. All human history is mine. My roots cover the earth. I believe we should know each other. After all, our lives are all connected. OK? Now come and dine.
ALLISON: Jim Haynes with his essay for This I Believe. We warned Haynes that after this airs, he'll probably get a lot more requests to dine. He said, "that's a good thing." Visit npr.org/thisibelieve to get Jim Haynes' address and Email, or to hear any of the essays in our series or submit one of your own. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
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