When it comes to forming connective experiences, intimacy and human relationships, face time comes out on top. I marry today’s modern means of communication with face time, as method and means for setting up face-to-face meetings. Even en route to a meeting, a kid will be texting on the way,
“You there yet, I just left the house.” “We’re meeting at so-and-so, right? Over by the so-and-so, right?” “I’m almost there!”
I understand the modern means of electronic communication, and have adapted well as the years have passed. It is a fact of life in 2012, that young people today make their connections and do their personal business via computers, tablets and cell phones. For the overwhelming majority, it is pretty much the quickest means of reaching them that I have at my disposal.
Nothing gives me more of a feeling of connection with someone than meeting them in person and being able to shake a hand, give a hug or a pat on the shoulder. When directly communicating with someone I am able to read body language, gauge emotion and sense their energy. Occasionally some intuitiveness kicks in and may alert me to something going on that I can then tactfully bring up.
Some years ago, a teenager posted something on either MySpace or the AIM chat that sounded suicidal. This was a local person and I contacted the principal at his school and filled him in. The principal later called me back and said that they had reached the student at school the next day, contacted his parents and counseling was arranged. Here was an event that started out impersonally and subsequently moved to face time (with the principal and others), which ended up assisting this child.
This incident connected the principal and I, and opened the door for me to begin visiting the students during their lunch breaks one day a week. I ended up accompanying a whole class of kids from the first week of their freshman year to their graduation from high school. This was pure face time with the young folks whereby I could affirm athletes who had done some great feat and I could encourage others that I may have read did this or that. During my visits I may notice youth who may be sitting alone, isolating themselves from others. I would walk over and make personal contact. I paid notice to the “goths” and skaters, who were, by role playing, placing themselves outside of the “crowd” and social “norm.” These kids, in effect, were stating that they had something to say and I would offer them my ears.
I spent some years away from the school visits due to work. When I retired, I went back to visiting during school lunches. This time, having more time in my schedule, I visited three schools: a middle school and two high schools. I also became an assistant track and field coach.
It usually takes the the entire first semester at each school for the kids to feel comfortable with me being there, and to figure out that I am safe. I knew some students from each school before starting, many from Facebook. Being a coach gave me a lot of props, and I regularly attended various sporting events at each school. Once established with the students, I become a part of the norm. Freshmen classes learned from the older kids and the adjustment period with them became much shorter.
Face time rises to prominence in relationships with these students. They appreciate the fact that I am willing to donate my time to interact with them on a regular schedule, no matter the weather or time of year. Often, many young people act in a different manner on the school campus than they do off of it. By seeing my face in their schools, they are much more open to face time outside of the school walls.
In a flip-flop sort of way, face time sometimes leads to more online connection. Once a young person meets me in the flesh and gets to know me a little bit, and hears about me from peers who have also gotten to know me in person, they tend to give me their trust and become more open, particularly online. A student may hit me up on Facebook to ask a question about some matter in their life, or even ask if we can meet sometime. Some nights I may wake up at one or two in the morning and get on Facebook to see who else is on. I will usually find a college student online at these hours rather than a younger student. In most cases they will be up cramming for a test or such, but occasionally they may be dealing with something and are happy to be able to chat. Sometimes folks may be more open communicating online. Yet, once having opened up online, they are more willing to be frank in face to face meetings.
Recently, I had a lunch meet-up with a dear friend who I had not seen in quite a while. I was in the restaurant when I saw him walk through the door, and could immediately “read” this magnificent human being. His countenance was radiant and we had an awesome time catching up and sharing stories. Yet, I could have never known him as he truly is now, without meeting him in a face time element. Posts on Facebook, emails, pictures or chat time could never donate his “beingness” the same way I received it by basking in his presence, and sharing in his great energy.
Until another lunch meeting that we had prior to our separation, we had never had face time except for casual path crossings over the years. In my friend and in the simple observation of his life, past and present, as well as his sweet vibe and measured words, I realized much about even the gist of this article. See, my buddy is not an easy person to get a hold of. I mean he allegedly owns a cell phone, and does have a Facebook account (which he rarely logs onto), but quite honestly he holds face time interactions as superior and shuns participation in the “modern” methods.
And as to subject matter of our face time, he is the second person to honor me by saying, “You are the only one I can talk to about this stuff.” He and the other person and I have talked face to face about deep and varied matters, to the point that there simply exists no topic that we cannot talk openly and honestly about. I hold such a relationship with these two young people that could never have been reached online or through the screen of a cell phone. There is a lot more to face time than a mere exchange of words and these elements are not transmittable by any other means. My good buddy and I have a connective-relationship, though we’ve only had face time twice thus far in this incarnation. He’s gone again, and I would not be surprised if we don’t connect in face time again until the Christmas holidays, and that’s okay. One doesn’t measure face time.
I will continue to use all the modern conveniences at my disposal to relate to and communicate with young people and adults. I have found in a quarter century of mentor work, that in most cases it is enough for a student to know that they can come to me regarding any subject at all and will still be loved and not judged. That is enough for most and I will never actually have a “serious” conversation with the majority, so to speak. Yet, there is a minority that will take me up on getting in deep, and I will arrange it so that this happens in face time, to experience the completeness and beingness not possible by any other means.
Ricky Ferdon retired from the marina business, college degree in political science, vegetarian, youth mentor, track and field assistant coach, father of two grown children, lax yoga practitioner, raised Christian, student of religion and philosophy for 46 years, in agreement with Sri Ramana Maharshi, minimalist, and knower that we are each born perfect and happy: happiness is our natural state.
Editor: Maja Despot
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