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The Art of Never Meeting a Stranger

By on Jan 12, 2009 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

Jim Haynes, World CitizenFor the past few years I’ve been a rather passive fan of “This I Believe,” a story-telling segment on NPR Radio. The stories are “user generated,” meaning they’re recorded by real people describing a pivotal moment in their lives, a learned lesson, a funny incident. Invariably, they have an unexpected conclusion, contributing to what NPR, during its fundraising airtime, identifies as a “driveway moment.”

Today’s story really inspired me. For the past 30 years, Jim Haynes of Louisiana, now a Parisian citizen of the world, has hosted a Sunday Salon in his atelier for friends, family and total strangers. Typically 50-60 people show up, and someone always offers to cook the meal. He calculates he’s broken bread with over 100,000 people.

Given this is eclectic Paris, Jim’s guests have included artists, politicians, booksellers, truck drivers and traveling retirees of every age, profession, race, religion and nationality. An open mind and love of people and new ideas is all that’s required. “If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to each other,” Jim said. And although coming from someone else this might sound like a bad Pepsi commercial, Jim’s got a proven track record towards this mission.

There is a Hebrew phrase known as “tikkun olam” which means “repairing the world.” If we do good deeds, all society benefits. I am inspired by Jim’s simple explanation of his long-standing good deed, “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.”

Here’s one guy who started inviting guests to break bread in the ’70s and has ended up making thousands of friends all over the world. And all without the benefit of LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook (spoiler alert: he does have a website, but to his credit, it definitely looks like he puts it together himself!)

Do you think an idea like this would resonate here in the Heartland? I’d like to give it a try. If you’d like to be invited to dinner in St. Louis, MO, leave me a comment or send me an email at lori (at) thedatabasediva.com. I’ll let you know when it’s time to show up.


  1. Great idea!

    Pat Staude

    January 20, 2009

  2. What a treat! I would love to be invited! What can I bring?

    I’ve always believed that, if the people in nations knew each other, we would have less war and crimes against humanity. So, when I made presentations overseas, I always made it a point to meet as many people as I could – and be a good representative of the kind, smart, generous people of America!

    Thank you, Lori!

    Nancy Hightshoe

    January 20, 2009

  3. I would love to meet new friends here in St. Louis. Please let me know what I can do to facilitate.
    Deb SB


    January 20, 2009

  4. A message my family used was “A stranger is someone we haven’t fed yet.”

    Dan Renaud

    February 6, 2009

  5. I’ll come for dinner! Let me know when.

    Great article.

    All the best,


    February 7, 2009

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