Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being More Hospitable

Monday on my drive home I was listening to NPR. They have a segment called “This I Believe”, maybe you’ve heard it before? It features the general public reading their own story about what they are passionate about. On Monday there was a man, Jim Haynes, who lives in Paris after traveling most of his life and each Sunday he hosts a dinner in his home that anyone can come to. Yes, I mean anyone. He was very passionate about his story and it really reminds me a lot of my parents and how I am trying to be more hospitable in all aspects of my life. I grew up in a house that loved to entertain. My parents would often have friends and family over for dinner parties filled with laughter and good food. I have always admired their attitude that there is more than enough food for anyone that would like to come for dinner, whether by last minute invitation or for a long planned for event. Now that I have been trying to adapt that attitude towards more areas of my life, I often look to a favorite blog with the same kind outlook. If you’d like to follow a great blog go see 4 Reluctant Entertainers. You can find the hostess, Sandy, here…

I have attached Jim Haynes Story to this blog along with the links. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that his story and Sandy’s blog will inspire you to squeeze a little more hospitality into your life.

Every week for the past 30 years, I've hosted a Sunday dinner in my home in Paris. People, including total strangers, call or e-mail 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 most important 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 museum to visit; instead, each book contained about 1,000 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.
This same can be said for my Sunday salon. At a recent dinner, a 6-year-old girl from Bosnia spent the entire evening glued to an 8-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.
Independently produced for All Things Considered by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

“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.” -Jim Haynes

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