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Two years ago we released our first episode, about the mystery beer fridge that appeared after a massive flood in Nebraska.
The last two years have been a lot, but I’m happy that, through it all, we’ve been able to get together each weekday and talk about some of the fascinating, exciting and surprising things that have been happening.
Today, for this special bonus episode, we get to talk about a guy who was all about getting people together.
For more than 40 years, Jim Haynes had thousands and thousands of people over for dinner.
Haynes had actually been a networker most of his life.
And he was a traveler: he was born in Louisiana, but spent time in Venezuela as a teen.
He ran a bookstore in Scotland, started a newspaper in Amsterdam, spent time in London with people like David Bowie and John Lennon.
Eventually he ended up in Paris as a university lecturer, and that’s where the idea for the dinner parties came to him.
A dancer who was staying at his place in the 1970s offered to cook for Haynes and his friends to say thank you.
In time, Haynes started a tradition: every Sunday night, dinner was open to anyone who sent word ahead of time that they were coming.
His place could hold 50 or 60 people at a time, more in warm months when they could be outside.
People from all over the world would come: locals and world travelers, famous people and regular ones, people Haynes knew and people he didn’t.
They all got together to eat and mingle.
Haynes said he would go over the guest list each week to learn about each person, to make it easier to introduce them all to one another.
At the end of the night guests left a donation to help cover the costs of the food and drinks, maybe having met a new friend or two.
He lived until December 2020, by which time he’d had something close to 150,000 people over for dinner.
And that’s not all.
Haynes also ran a series of guidebooks during the Cold War: he asked people in Eastern European countries if they’d be willing to act as guides for visitors, so they could see what life was really like where they lived.
At a time when some people were understandably scared of putting their name on a list to be put in contact with Westerners, he had no shortage of volunteers.
Why did he do all of this?
Dinner parties are hard enough to throw with small groups of people who already know each other, much less dozens of people meeting for the first time.
And to do it week after week for nearly half a century?
The answer he gave was simple: “I believe in introducing people to people,” he said. “If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to each other.”
He came about as close as anybody ever has!
Jim Haynes: A man who invited the world over for dinner (BBC)
Inviting The World To Dinner (NPR)