Reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" were a staple in my house growing up. The lessons learned while laughing at Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, Floyd, Gomer, and Goober have stuck with me through the years.
That is why fans of shows mourned last week when Andy Griffith died at the age of 86. It was as if we lost a member of our own family - the sheriff of the fictional town of Mayberry where everyone looked out for each other and did what was right.
The lessons were numerous and everyone has their own takeaways but here are some of my favorites:
— Bigger is not always better. Floyd the barber learned this lesson when he tried to expand his shop to "two chairs – no waitin’." He had "the magazines to swing it" but it all ended up falling apart when the new partner turned out to be running an illegal gambling operation with his barber shop as a front. That might be a lesson the government could learn.
— Believe in your children. Opie came home one day telling Andy about Mr. McBeevee – a man who has 12 extra hands, walks in the tree tops, and can make smoke come out of his ears. Andy is torn about how Opie could be telling the truth but ends up believing him because he "believes in Opie." He finally meets Mr. McBeevee – a telephone lineman – and realizes Opie was telling the truth after all.
— Sometimes it is better to lead from behind. A reccurring theme was Barney’s desire to rise from deputy to high sheriff. One episode he finally got his wish only to learn it is not as great as he thought. Sometimes we can lead best from second chair. On the same note, the original plan for the show was for Andy Griffith to be the funny guy but they quickly figured Don Knotts was more suited for that role with Andy as the straight man. Know your role.
— Take responsibility for your actions. In one of the most memorable episodes, Opie killed a mother bird with his sling shot. Andy told Opie that the baby birds were now his responsibility. He nursed them back to health until it was time to let them fly. "The cage sure looks awful empty, don’t it, Pa," comments Opie after letting them go. "Yes son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full," replies Andy.
As much as we would like to believe it does, Mayberry does not really exist. But that does not keep us from believing in it. Once my dad was traveling through North Carolina and passed by Mt. Airy – the town upon which Mayberry is loosely based. He planned to stop but decided at the last minute to pass it by. The real town could never live up to the Mayberry he imagined, he explained to me later.
But in a way, all of us can live in Mayberry — just by choosing to put into practice the lessons we learned. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com