Thoughts on Andy Griffith, Mayberry, and Our Wonderful Community

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If you’re of a certain age, you grew up watching certain TV shows. Sure, the same thing happens today, but back when there were just three primetime networks, everyone watched the same shows.

Those weekly episodes defined your youth, your community, and our nation. For better or worse, we were all one.

It was a great feeling. To be part of one united community, no matter where our ancestors came from, no matter our differences, no matter our race, color, or creed.

It was an era when E Pluribus Unum wasn’t just an archaic phrase on our money. It was more than a mere motto; it was our unabashed philosophy.

We were all one.

And that meant something.

Something important.

Those old enough to have lived in those times may have forgotten how good that aura of togetherness was. Count me among them.

I was reminded of that time again when I happened to watch an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. It was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s birthday and his son Opie wanted to get him a special gift. It was an electric razor, which was a new-fangled contraption back then that most folks didn’t have the money for.

Little Opie thought he could win just such a razor at the local carnival. Now, Opie was a good shot and was should he could ring the bell five times.

He didn’t. He kept trying and trying. He kept missing and missing. And it cost him two months worth of allowance.

Opie went to Sheriff Andy to ask for an advance on his allowance so he could try again. Afraid of ruining the birthday surprise, he couldn’t tell his father what he needed it for.

Instead, Opie said he needed the money to get the brakes on his bike fixed. Andy, otherwise engaged in trying to find a past due insurance bill he accidentally threw away, offhandedly tells his son to just take the bike down to Goober, the local mechanic, and he’ll take care of the bill.

Disheartened, Opie turned to Goober. Goober was also a good shot. He confidently promised Opie he could win the razor. Goober also missed, spending even more money than Opie. And all he got out of it was a cheap Kewpie doll.

Goober eventually spills the beans to Andy. The calm, cool, and collected Sheriff of Mayberry instantly knew what was going on. He strolled over to the carney’s booth and tricked the trickster. In the end, everyone was happy. Even the carney, who promised never to cheat again.

Think about it. In less than 30 minutes you got a nice morality tale. No shouting, no protests, no overturning cars and burning them. The literally black and white message was clear as day.

And the whole nation learned together. (The Andy Griffith Show was consistently among the most watched shows each week.)

No matter our own personal backstory, we all came together in agreement as we cheered honest Andy’s sly mastery over the crooked carnival vendor’s cunning deceit.

Mayberry is a small community, just like ours. Everybody knows each other. When you need the brakes on your bike fixed, you know who can fix it fast. And that person knows you’re good to pay.

You don’t have to front the money. You don’t even have to offer a handshake. Your word is your bond.

That’s not to say we don’t have an occasional traveling carnival barker come through every now and then. Every small town has a bit of River City, Iowa in them and every Harold Hill knows that. (Interesting trivia side-note, actor Ron Howard starred in both The Andy Griffith Show and The Music Man.)

These Harold Hills can’t con everyone. There’s always a cynic who reveals their duplicity. The trouble is, it takes the better part of two-and-a-half acts in a three act show for this revelation to overcome the charm of a Harold Hill. Until that denouement, a once unified River City will find itself divided.

[Start of digression]

Hmm… a thought just occurred. Sometimes River City isn’t just a small community. Sometimes it’s an entire nation. Oh, well.

[End of digression]

A Harold Hill might charm an Aunt Bea and an Opie, but he’ll never get one past Sheriff Andy Taylor. That might cause some momentary strife in the Taylor household, but, by the end of the episode, Bea and Opie will see the wisdom of Andy and all will again be right in the world of Mayberry.

There’s a lot of Mayberry in our own small community. Here, everybody knows your name. (Of course, if you’re of a different generation, that phrase will evoke a different TV show.)

And, with knowing everyone’s name comes something more important than anything: trust.

We trust each other. We know we’ll always do the right thing for each other. We walk comfortable through our streets, confident that, despite our kaleidoscope of diverse talents, interests, and, yes, even beliefs, we exalt our commonality.

That is our community. Lo be to those seeking to take advantage of our kindness and trustworthiness.

For the third act arrives eventually. And when it does, you can count on one thing: We will act as one body.

E Pluribus Unum.

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