Our sense of community

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From our earliest days of publishing Wrangler News—then Warner Wrangler—in the early 1990s, one of our goals was to create a hometown-style newspaper from which our readers could reinforce their sense of community.

We tried our best then, as we do now, to tell stories that provide a way for people to build on their sense of neighborhood, to read about the things that happen in their (and our) city that bind us together rather than keep us apart.

Oh, I’m sure there have been times when, as a newspaper, we could have sensationalized some of the news that came our way or taken a critical stance on decisions that were made by our community’s leadership, but we’ve chosen to opt for what is, in my vernacular at least, “the high ground.”

We hope we’ve accomplished that goal in part, and plan—even in times like these where criticism and divisiveness seem to have reached an unparalleled flash point—to continue to look for opportunities to praise the good works of those around us.

I was particularly reminded of that premise a few days ago when neighbors Bob and Karen hailed me as I was walking by to ask if I’d happened to see one of the couples who live on our street and who are regularly out and about—walking, caring for their yard, driving a familiar vehicle to the home of a relative who lives nearby.

No, I hadn’t. Nor had Bob or Karen. What seemed slightly worrisome was that these are folks who are always around. And when they aren’t seen for a day or their Christmas lights are off or the house is dark, well, we share a bit of concern: Are they OK?

Adding a bit to the question was the fact that a few unfamiliar people had appeared at the couple’s home the morning before, and it was since then—unconnected, as it turned out—that we hadn’t seen any sign of life at the usually busy home. Nor did anyone respond to Bob’s knock at the door.

Having agreed that maybe paying a visit to another family we knew to be friendly to the couple, or to the home of the nearby relative, might turn up some information, we put that small plan into action.

Results: Zero. So, feeling we’d exhausted every reasonable option, a call to Tempe police for a welfare check produced a helpful officer who set off on a small series of follow-up visits to the same places we’d gone. Again, nothing new.

It wasn’t until the next morning that the mystery, if there ever really was one, was solved. The couple and their relative had gone out of town overnight and were now back at home, garage door open as he worked in the yard, she headed off on her routine walk around the block. And, once again, holiday lights aglow along the roofline.

All of which brought us to the realization that we are a community after all. That even though we don’t obsess over the comings and goings of our neighbors, we do seem to maintain at least a subconscious awareness of people’s actions. When everything looks normal, no one pays much attention. When something seems off, we notice.

If this is one of the ways in which our sense of community pays off, in which we actually care about the well-being of our neighbors—in which a hometown paper like ours helps to create a sense that, yes, we’re all in this together—then the “Warner Wranglers” of our little world serve a purpose that somehow tends to be overlooked, sometimes including even by us.

Until, that is, the time comes for people like Bob and Karen to step into action. So to you, our readers, we say welcome to the neighborhood.

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