I typically don’t pay a lot of attention to the death of a celebrity. If the death occurs when the person is young the media makes such hoopla that it wears everyone out. It is certainly sad when Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston die at such an early age but I’m not sure it deserves five days of constant media attention.
Last week we lost another celebrity but this time it was not unexpected. Andy Griffith, well into his eighties, died and we all grieved the loss. His death precipitated a great deal of nostalgia as we remembered the 1960s “Andy Griffith Show.” Like many of you, it was one of my favorite television programs of all time.
In my opinion, Barney Fife, Andy’s faithful deputy, was the most interesting television character ever. His bumbling incompetence and overly serious approach to most situations provided the ideal foil for Andy’s quiet confidence. One of my favorite scenes was an episode where Barney had a girlfriend named Juanita who worked at the diner. He didn’t really want to admit he liked her but he did. Of course, Andy never missed an opportunity to tease. Barney was on the phone with Juanita, his back to the door and Andy walked in, unseen by Barney. After putting up some resistance on the phone, Barney finally says ok and began to sing, “Nita, Juanita…”
At that moment, Andy who had snuck up directly behind Barney, loudly joins in, “Ask thy soul…..” (see the video for yourself) This is good television!
Obviously television has changed and many would be quick to add that programs like Andy and Barney wouldn’t survive in today’s world. Perhaps they are correct. By the way, just a few days ago I introduced my twelve-year-old grandson to his first taste of “The Andy Griffith Show.” He laughed out loud several times and even asked if we could watch another episode when it was finished. We did.
The death of Andy Griffith is really symbolic of the death of a way of life. His passing is a reminder of how much we miss a much simpler world, times when folks took care of family and community and how decency was important. It doesn’t mean they did not have problems – have you ever wondered about Andy’s wife? They had problems but they worked together to solve them.
I admit there is nothing appealing about an old man being nostalgic about the good old days so I will not ramble. However, instead of sitting here wishing we could go back to a better time, perhaps it would do us well to simply review some of the old shows and see what we can learn that we can still apply. So, I got to thinking about some of the lessons we learned from Andy Griffith by watching him on television. Here is my list:
- Accept the consequences of your actions – One of the more unforgettable episodes occurred when young Opie shot and killed a mother bird. In just a short time the eggs hatched and the young birds were chirping outside his window. Andy made his son tend to the birds until they were old enough to be released. It was a valuable lesson taught in a memorable fashion.
- It is important to overlook the flaws of others – the show was filled with quirky characters – Gomer and his cousin Guber, Floyd the barber, the mayor to mention a few. Andy always found the redeeming qualities in each of them and taught us how to accept others who are different.
- Community is valuable – with the exception of a few excursions to nearby Mount Pilot, every episode centered on the community of Mayberry. It was the community that helped single-parent Andy and his Aunt Bee raise a boy. It was the community that always rallied around the needs of one another. The community was the center of life because in such a small town they all needed everyone else.
- Honesty is crucial – This lesson was obvious in numerous episodes. I especially remember the times when Barney Fife would try to impress outsiders, and even a few townsfolk, with the brilliance and efficiency of the sheriff’s office. (watch video) Level-headed Andy constantly reminded him of the value of just being who you are.
- Take responsibility for yourself – Who can forget the town drunk Otis, locking himself in jail after a drinking binge. Even though he couldn’t quit drinking, at least he knew what to do when he did. (see Otis here) Otis would dutifully stagger into the jail, let himself in the cell and sleep it off. He knew the offense required staying until noon the next day at which time he would let himself out. In one episode, Barney asked Otis to stay an extra night to make the jail look busy for some out of town bigwigs. Otis declined, reminding Barney that he had choir practice.
- Kindness goes a long way – Above all else, Andy Taylor of Mayberry was a kind man. He looked after the widows, kept an eye on the children, and watched over the safety needs of the entire town. It seems that he was always on the lookout for ways to help others. I think kindness might be the most descriptive adjective for Sheriff Taylor.
- Enjoy life – Music was a big part of the show. The entire town seemed to enjoy singing, eating, and sharing. One of the more interesting examples was the Darling family, a group of hillbillies who seemed to spend all their time “pickin-n-singin.” Andy took every opportunity to grab his guitar and join in; even Barney would break out his harmonica upon occasion. After a luscious dinner served by Aunt Bee, Andy and whoever else was around gathered on the front porch, singing, eating pie, and visiting. Mayberry always seemed like a great place to live. It seems that most of the enjoyment came from spending time with friends and family.
I am very much aware we cannot return to the simple life they enjoyed in Mayberry. However, we can remember some of the lessons they taught us about living. Rest in peace, Andy Griffith! I’m going to go watch another episode and see if I can do a better job with the way I’m living.