Martin Buber's I and Thou philosophy is based on a moment when Buber failed to say “Here I am” to one of his students. Buber, the towering giant of modern Jewish philosophy, had just finished his morning studies and was still absorbed in his own thoughts when a young man knocked on the door of his study. Buber was known as a wise counselor to many young, seeking souls. Buber did not know Mehe, the young man at the door; nonetheless, he invited Mehe to come in. Buber was far from rude to the man. He listened politely to Mehe, but Buber’s mind and heart were very far from the conversation. Buber failed to discern the urgency of Mehe’s visit.
Two months later, one of Mehe’s friends came to see Buber and told him of Mehe’s death and what the young man had hoped his talk with Buber would be. Mehe had come to Buber not casually, not for a chat but for a decision. The decision was one of life and death.
Buber was devastated by this revelation. This young man had come to him out of burning need, but Buber was too absorbed in his own thoughts and in his own world to truly notice. Buber’s life was changed forever by this encounter. Buber’s life and philosophy were permanently redirected because of how he had failed to respond. He wrote his new philosophy of religious living in a book called I and Thou. - Richard Jacobs