There is a bookstore in Paris that’s on my bucket list.
Just across the Seine from Notre Dame is a unique bookstore. Originally opened by Sylvia Beach in the 1920s, the shop was a favourite haunt of the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sylvia’s style inspired American George Whitman to open a store modelled on Shakespeare and Company. His store, Le Mistral, was located on the site of a 16th Century monastery, and took on the name of Shakespeare and Company in 1964 after the death of Sylvia Beach, who had publicly declared at a dinner party in 1958 that she wanted the name of her store to go to George.
If you were to go into Shakespeare and Company you would be met by a chaotic scene of books spilling off shelves, whilst others lie in stacks which reach up to the ceiling. It has a remarkable range of stock, from new releases to first editions. What makes the bookstore in Paris so unique is not just it’s stock, or its rickety steps and narrow spaces, it’s the people. The shop is crawling with writers, poets and students, sitting at desks by windows, lying on sofas, some writing, some reading and others engaged in conversation.
There is something else you’ll see. Stretchers, backpacks and sleeping bags. George would allow people to sleep in his bookstore as long as they needed. He would feed them with warm broths and that crusty bread you can only find in Paris. Around a meal, writers, students, artists shared ideas and discussed their latest work.
That’s a place I would want to visit.
Shakespeare and Company, a humble bookstore has built a reputation for its hospitality and community. It’s a place where people come together, share a meal, exchange ideas, and find rest.
In the gospel of Matthew it is these sorts of actions which Jesus invites His followers to engage in. In Matthew 25 Jesus equates giving hospitality and care to others with doing it for him. Earlier, in Matthew 11, we are told Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ It seems like Jesus would have been at home in a place like Shakespeare and Company.
At Mosaic, let’s be a little more like Shakespeare and Co. A place which is unique in this world, a place where the hungry, the tired, the student and the artist can come and always enjoy a warm broth and crusty piece of bread, a place where they will always experience hospitality. A place where anyone can find the rest that their soul longs for.