Use summer to solve relationship crisis

There are people in every generation who think the next generation is lost. It’s not.

Every day, there are extraordinary feats being accomplished by young people here in Las Vegas. You can read about many of those people daily in this newspaper. Like Sarah Dixon, the Coronado High School junior who traveled to Cambodia to foster humanitarianism. Or Ryan Popowcer, the Liberty High senior who hosted a fundraiser in support of curing Parkinson’s disease. Both are great examples for their generation.

But this generation has many challenges that prior generations did not. In his landmark book, “This Land of Strangers,” author Robert E. Hall explores the relationship crisis in America, highlighting challenges that affect all of us but most acutely our youth. Hall points to some alarming statistics: 38.5 percent of children born in the United States have unwed mothers; single households are the new majority in America; only 63 percent of children in the U.S. live with both biological parents.

We are choosing alone over together, me over us. An American Sociological Review study states that the number of people who report they have nobody with whom to discuss important matters nearly tripled in the past 20 years. And most alarming is the number of people with no close friends, which has also tripled.

Of course, this lack of relationships with family and friends is devastating on the community at large. The book quotes Mike Butler, the police chief in Longmont, Colo., as saying that “80 percent of the calls we receive, people do not need a uniformed officer, they need a neighbor.”

Hall makes a rather compelling argument that technology has some part to play in the decline of relationships.

“Computers can inform people without interaction,” he says. He further points out that children 8 to 18 years old spend an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes a day on an electronic device. Are the Internet and TV really the best baby sitters for our children? Hall’s thought is that if you give a fool a faster computer, all you get is a faster fool.

Learning about relationships is the most important lesson we can give our kids. Hall would argue, and I have to agree, that we are dropping the ball.

The book has some wonderful insights about small business. Remember when you knew the store owner and shopped there because you had a relationship with that person? Thankfully, we still can find some of that here in the valley.

Hall also talks about what he calls extreme commercialism. The spirit of winner takes all often means win at all costs — think about banks foreclosing on homes and businesses instead of working out a payment plan. The calculation of what is best for the community, the neighborhood, the family is gone, because there’s no relationship.

Hall would readily admit that the answers are tough. We didn’t just get into this mess, and it will take years to recover. It starts in the mirror. Setting the example within your sphere of influence is critical. Mentor and coach somebody. Be a leader at work or school or your church. Commit to helping someone. Too many people right here in the valley need you.

Relationships take hard work and patience; they are not easy nor fast. But they are the most precious thing we have on Earth.

Enjoy your summer reading assignment.

Bob Brown is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.