"Texting is a marvelous invention. It connects us instantly with friends all over the world. But look at what happened here, just a moment ago. All of you sat in this room together, but you weren't sharing with each other how today went in school, you weren't talking about what happened over the weekend, you weren't listening to each other's thoughts or feelings. You were all focused on your texting, as if each of you were alone in the room. That's my issue with texting — it connects us, but it also pushes us apart because it distracts us from the people who are around us. Texting keeps us from face-to-face conversation with the people who are right here.
"In Hebrew, the word for 'face' is panim. It's related to the Hebrew word lif'nim, which means 'inside.' When I communicate face to face with a person, something special happens — I can perceive their inner life, their thoughts and feelings, what hurts them, what brings them joy. When I look someone in the eye, I come to know that person. I communicate my care, concern, and respect by looking back at them in a certain way.
"When we communicate face to face, we listen in a much deeper way. We listen to what is said, and what isn't said. Try this experiment: Turn on a TV show that's in a language you don't speak and see how much you can figure out without understanding a word of what is being said. You'll be surprised at how much is communicated by gestures, expressions, tone of voice, or just a look.
"From a very early age, we learn to 'read' faces. We learn everything about ourselves from watching the faces of those around us. That Hebrew word, panim, is a plural noun. It's a strange fact of human existence that not one of us can see his or her own face. The most prominent sign of our identity, and we can't even see it! That means that we need other people to help us know who we are. As young children we learn about ourselves from looking into the faces of those who know us and love us. That's how we learn the most important thing a person can ever learn: That we matter to someone.
"In the last century, there lived a great Jewish thinker named Martin Buber who taught that the most important moments in all of life are the moments we meet and communicate deeply with one another. He called these I-Thou moments and taught that everything really good in human life — love, learning, the feeling of being appreciated, knowing that someone really cares for us — comes from these moments of meeting."