City of Surprise, a Golden Rule city
Albert Celoza Special to The Republic
The United States is a focal point for people in search of freedom and opportunities. As an immigrant nation, American society is naturally diverse with vast land expanse that extends for thousands of miles, and climatic areas. While these have been the reason for its success, diversities have also made the country vulnerable to conflicting interests further exacerbated by increasing inequality, rapid technological and cultural changes. While its motto — “E pluribus Unum” — from many one, American society is experiencing strains. The promotion of common values can bridge the challenge. Perhaps the idea of the Golden Rule is such a common value foundational to building cohesive communities. Here’s an example.
Like a new frontier, Arizona’s people from various parts of the country move to this state for a better way of life. One such community is the city of Surprise. The city was founded in 1938 from the vast land ownership of Flora Mae Statler, who named it Surprise. Statler said she ‘would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much.’
In 2018, this small town proclaimed its aspiration to be a Golden Rule City and was recognized by the Arizona Interfaith Movement. The city stated that: “Its citizens recognize and appreciate the wonderful diversity of peoples, cultures, faiths and languages; through the application of the Golden Rule we work to eliminate hate and intolerance and embrace the inclusion of all people, cultures and faiths; by living the Golden Rule we will have a powerfully positive effect on individuals we meet and the society in which we live; and, through its application we may be able to express our values: compassion and care for others, kindness, generosity, openness and courtesy.”
The city’s Human Services Department actively and intentionally grows its relationships with various faith traditions and constituents. It believes that building bonds of strong connection The city’s Human Services Department actively and intentionally grows its relationships with various faith traditions and constituents. It believes that building bonds of strong connection will make for a resilient community.
will make for a resilient community.
The city sees itself as a provider of information, a focal point of participation for schools, non-profit organizations, churches, mosques, and synagogues. The City of Surprise publishes resource guides for the community and is inclusive. Their network benefits surrounding areas of El Mirage, Peoria, Sun City and Sun City West. It maintains contact by sending out newsletters twice a month to various constituents and sharing information about available resources.
I personally witnessed the vibrance of Surprise in their Golden Rule Breakfast program attended by hundreds of city officials and members of the community on September 27, 2022. Punctuated by the beautiful choral renditions of jazz songs, each sector shared their Golden Rule Moments. Parents, teachers, and students from public and charter schools put together programs of encouragement during the pandemic. There is support for senior centers, housing, food, employment, and disability resources. Earlier I wrote an article about the local IHELP – Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program, a collaboration of various congregations and the Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. See www.azifm.org (NEWS tab) People from all over the world come to Surprise. As I was speaking to Seth Dyson, Director of Human Service and Community Vitality, the population of Surprise had reached 155,000. Growth has its attendant problems but with the framework of the Golden Rule, the City of Surprise will deal well with its future challenges.