Although Rio Rancho is one of the largest cities in the state, we are predominantly a small town.

This scenario is apparent when our reporters end up running into the same people at meetings and ribbon cuttings in a short time period.

The Observer understands it is our job to know who the major players in our community are and we do so with pride.

In fact we understand our function in a community is more important than what we first realized after watching one of our sister papers, the Mountain View Telegraph, close its doors after 30 years of coverage.

Yet, there are faces at these events we recognize but haven’t taken the time to get to know.

One of the most fundamental jobs of a newspaper and the staff therein is to tell compelling stories that affect our readership, but if we do not take the time to know our readership, then we have failed in our mission. Seeing a familiar stranger is unacceptable.

In light of this understanding the Observer is taking on the new initiative of acknowledging the very people that make our city great; you, the everyday resident.

One example comes from the testimony of one of Rio Rancho’s 100-year-old citizens, Edna McGuffin-Thompson. As you can imagine, 100 years on this Earth is a long time, and in McGuffin-Thompson’s story, we learn it is never too late to find love and to teach by example the virtue of staying active.

Second, the Observer called on Rio Rancho resident George Oppenheimer just to chat about his life because he had been present at so many events we’ve covered over the years. Oppenheimer graciously obliged our request, and when he revealed his life’s journey, the paper was grateful for his candor.

Oppenheimer was involved with creating equal opportunities for men and women on the debate team at the University of Pennsylvania in the late ‘40s, and served with dignity in the Korean War.

It goes back to the old adage: You can’t judge a book by its cover. Same goes for looking at a person and guessing who they are and what they stand for.

The Observer would like to go one further and ask our readers to take the time this summer to open up and talk to a fellow Rio Ranchoan they consider a stranger. Chances are, you have more in common than you think.

The Observer can say with absolute certainty that our staff has been enriched by just paying our new initiative forward to only two residents. Imagine the wealth of information and camaraderie we can all gain from taking the time to break down the barrier of being strangers with each other and becoming respected acquaintances.

In today’s political climate, what could it hurt to build upon our community, not just in the form of roads and business, but also in the form of friendship?