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Writer in Residence, by Monica S. Nagy

Through his work volunteering with the inner-city homeless, former businessman Robert E. Hall had an epiphany. “I found that most of the families I coached and mentored, most often the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in their homelessness was the severing of a relationship,” Hall says. The Far North Dallas author dedicated six years to research and writing for his second book, “This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics and Faith.” Each chapter of his novel opens with narrative-style storytelling before he presents the facts. An example is the Pew Research Center’s 2010 poll findings that only 22 percent of citizens trust the government, while 32 percent feel like public schools are on the right track. To add to that, Hall says, “the percentage of children under 18 living with both biological parents in the United States is 63 percent, the lowest among Western industrialized nations.” Hall says that, increasingly, politicians are being punished away from compromise, therefore the country increasingly is run by people of different extremes. “When I see our views today, there is a high level of contempt, and that’s really hurt our society,” he says. Hall hopes his book will provide a call to action about the decline of relationships across the nation. As a society, leaders, business owners, parents and children, friends and spouses have experienced a “seismic shift” from the relationships we were made for, he says. What society needs to do, he says, is come to grips with the fact that relationships are the most important thing we have. He talks about how the absence of friends or family can lead to loss of motivation; bad relationships in the workplace lead to discouragement and loss of a job; loss of a job affects the economy; and poor economy equals lack of faith in the government. “Relationships are hard, messy and one of the greatest sources of pain we have,” he says. “Today, technology allows us to gain information without having to interact with people. We choose not to interact with people.” That is not meant to be discouraging, he says. By simply spending dinner with our families sans the mobile devices, sitting on our front porches and getting to know our neighbors or giving each other a voice in the workplace, Hall says change is possible. “I don’t think this change has a chance to happen from top down, but bottom up,” he says.

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