Here's an easy question: What makes a community?
The people, obviously. I'm reminded of that every day, since interacting with people is what every journalist does for a living.
This past Sunday, I spent a little time talking to some folks from Rifle and hereabouts as they dug up weeds and painted the sides of an old home owned by an elderly woman who lives alone. You can read all about it and see photos on the front page.
But the fact these volunteers gave up a few hours of their time on a Sunday morning to do some hard work for someone else, without expecting the kind of reward most workers get for doing that on a weekday, is community.
I'm not sure if Rifle's really any different when it comes to helping its own; you see it all the time on TV and in newspapers across the country. But there's something special about seeing, firsthand, people helping someone else out of the goodness of their hearts. They work just as hard as they would on their own home or in their own yard.
I was also reminded of all the help local folks provided in times of wildfires and the like, such as the Coal Seam Fire in Glenwood Springs, and the tragic loss of four lives at the hands of Steven Michael Stagner right here in Rifle in 2001.
I wrote many stories about both incidents, but the shootings here in Rifle by someone with serious mental health problems, is really the one that touched me the most over the 20 some years I've lived here. People say reporters are hard hearted, but I've found that isn't true in most cases. We're human and we feel for the people we write about and get to know.
While the victims' families suffered the most in what I think of as Rifle's greatest tragedy, I will never forget the way the community came together - Anglos and Hispanics, young and old, construction workers and lawyers alike - and walked side by side down Railroad Avenue to Metro Park, where several speakers tried to provide words of comfort. It was very moving just to be walking with people you didn't know, but all with the same message: We have to get along and we're here for each other.
It's too bad it usually seems to take something like that to bring neighbors together.
And it's disheartening that sometimes we forget to reach out, even after a community comes together for a time.
Still, I believe that deep down, when it comes to crunch time, nearly everyone pulls together in whatever way possible. Whether it's putting a new coat of paint on an old house, shoveling snow from your neighbor's sidewalk or leaving freshly picked vegetables on your neighbor's doorstep just to be kind, that's what brings us together as a community.
One of our basic human needs, I guess, and one of our best ones.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.