Renewing Our Faith on the Road to Mayberry


By: Kendall Wingrove

The scene is instantly recognized by million of television viewers. A man and a boy, fishing poles
in hand, make their way down the road. A familiar theme song is whistling in the background.

Thus begins The Andy Griffith Show, a television classic that debuted 40 years ago this month. A
ratings hit during its initial run, the program continues to attract audiences who enjoy the folksy
comedy and well-written scripts.

That's only part of the story. People come to Mayberry four decades later because they also
treasure the inhabitants of this fictional place. While laughing along with the antics of these
flawed but charming characters, some remember the close-knit nature of small town America.
Younger viewers, raised in the harsh realities of our modern existence, are charmed by the
simplicity of quiet summer evenings on yesteryear's front porches.

The program teaches timeless lessons of love, morality and trust. It's easy to see why many
pastors and Bible study leaders are using the show to illustrate their points. Lesson plans are
available through several avenues, including a Web site, www.barneyfife.com.

At center stage of the show is Sheriff Andy Taylor, who watches over the small North Carolina
community. In addition to enforcing laws and arresting criminals, the sheriff also guards the
citizenry from everyday travails. His philosophy comes from Matthew 19:19: "love thy neighbor as
thyself."

Andy is kind to all, including Otis the town drunk, Floyd the gossiping barber and Gomer Pyle,
the naive gas station attendant. He even remains compassionate to Barney Fife, the clumsy
deputy who is full of bluster and riddled with insecurity. Andy accepts Barney's frailties, and he
bolsters his partner whenever setbacks arise.

As he guides the townsfolk, widower Andy also raises his youngster, Opie, with the help of the
beloved Aunt Bee. The warm relationship shared by family members, especially between father
and son, is the heart of the show. While Andy is far from perfect, several memorable episodes
capture his loving and generous spirit. The plots bring laughter and tears.

"The Pickle Story" is hilarious. Despite good intentions, Aunt Bee makes some of the worst
"kerosene cucumbers" in the history of canning. Andy and Barney concoct a secret scheme to
make them quickly disappear while sparing her feelings. Because the boys seem to love the
pickles so much, Bee makes another batch--twice as big as the original!

Andy's selfless devotion to Aunt Bee is captured brilliantly in "The Bed Jacket." As Bee's
birthday approaches, she drops hints about a lacy jacket sitting in a nearby store window. By the
time Andy realizes what Bee really wants, Mayor Stoner has already procured the outfit for his
wife.

Knowing the mayor covets Andy's favorite fishing pole, the sheriff trades it to Stoner for the
jacket. The reward is worth the sacrifice. Andy beams as a jubilant Aunt Bee unwraps her prized
gift.

Several memorable programs chronicle how Andy teaches values to his son. My favorite example
is "Opie the Birdman." In this touching episode, Opie accidentally kills a mother bird while
playing carelessly with his slingshot. After being reprimanded by his father, Opie makes
restitution. He decides to care for the three babies since it is his fault their mother will never
return.

The birds thrive under the loving care of a boy who also lost his mother. Soon it's time for them to
leave the confines of captivity and human protection. Just like any parent, Opie has trouble letting
go, but knows it must be done. After successfully setting them free, Opie says, "The cage sure
looks awful empty, don't it, Pa?" Andy replies: "Yes, son, it does. But don't the trees seem nice
and full."

The episode speaks volumes about Biblical truths: the cost of disobedience, the importance of
accepting responsibility for our actions, the fruits of parental guidance, and the free will of each
individual.

Most modern network shows are as empty as Opie's old bird cage. I'll take reruns from Mayberry
any day. It's true that Andy Taylor flew away from the airwaves long ago. But whenever his
smiling face reappears on television, don't our screens seem nice and full?

Copyright: Kendall Wingrove

Originally published by The Amy Foundation (http://www.amyfound.org)
P.O. Box 16091
Lansing, MI 48901