It’s hard to know where to begin when exploring lessons from television shows of my childhood. I was born in 1952. Middle income families in our part of rural Georgia had one black and white TV which got three channels. Remote controls were unheard of and changing stations required a trip outside to turn the antenna. It was a hard life.
Now we have four television sets and a thousand programs, yet it’s more challenging to find something worth watching. I love The Andy Griffith Show but even the best reruns eventually need a rest. That’s probably a good series to start with, though, as it’s widely acclaimed for weaving threads of value into the fabric of entertainment. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that happens much today.
Others have written extensively about the many lessons from Mayberry. Our church even had a Sunday night study years ago which lasted several months. Here are some reflections of mine that I hope remind you of a few of your own. If you somehow missed watching that series, then start today and don’t skip any episodes, especially the ones when Barney Fife was the deputy.
There are countless lessons from that beloved comedy, but the consistent theme that most impressed me was how Andy treated others with respect. No sheriff in his right mind would have hired Barney or kept him on payroll. Barney was like a fountain of bad decisions that never stopped flowing. He made puddles of trouble which Andy was constantly mopping up.
Andy was often frustrated by Barney’s failure to use common sense, especially his insistence on enforcing the law exactly by the codes he could quote from memory. Barney had a knack for creating blunders. His performance as a lawman was so precarious he was only allowed to carry one bullet, a single cartridge kept in his pocket. Barney was by any measure a terrible deputy.
Yet Andy kept finding ways to make Barney look more capable than he was, giving him credit he didn’t deserve for solving crimes, helping Barney avoid public humiliation from some of his worst mistakes. Being sheriff would have been so much easier with a real deputy. But what Andy showed us was how to be a real friend.
All of us know a Barney who could use an Andy, someone who loves them just as they are. Or maybe we’ve walked in Barney’s shoes and had an Andy who gave us a boost of confidence. Andy kept on forgiving and patiently coaching, focusing on Barney’s potential instead of his failures. That’s somewhat akin to what Jesus does for us. No matter how often we fail or how far we fall, He offers us a fresh start. He invites us to walk with Him and lights the path we should take.
The other ongoing theme which struck me as notable was the lessons Andy and his son Opie learned from each other. It was usually Andy, the wise father, who helped Opie understand the importance of such virtues as honesty and kindness. Sometimes, however, Opie was the teacher and Andy the student.
One incident that stands out is when Opie was selling his bicycle to a friend without mentioning it had some defects. Andy sidetracked the deal when he pointed out how the chain kept breaking and the tires going flat. Opie paid close attention to his dad. When Andy decided he might sell their home, Opie told the married couple interested in buying it everything which needed repairing.
An irritated father began to give his young son a scolding. That’s when Opie innocently explained he didn’t realize honesty applied just to kids and not to grown-ups. Isaiah 11:6 says, “And a little child shall lead them.” It was Opie’s time to lead that day. Children sometimes do that if we’ll listen.
Even though he was an exceptionally fine person, Andy had some flaws that showed up occasionally. Maybe that’s why it’s such an impactful series. Andy wasn’t perfect, but we knew his heart was in the right place.
We all stumble at times and need an Andy to help steady us. And sometimes we need an Opie to put things in perspective. There are plenty of good lessons in Mayberry and other shows of my childhood, lessons of value within wholesome entertainment. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that happens much today. There is one thing, though, which I’m sure about. It was a good life.