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Mayberry folks had the secrets we seek today


By Steve Blow / The Dallas Morning News

I'm embarrassed to admit that as I first began to ponder the Colorado tragedy, a name kept pressing itself into my mind:

Andy Griffith.

Well, as you can imagine, I kept pressing that name right back out of my mind.

Forget Mayberry. This was about Littleton.

Besides, what serious person could contemplate sitcoms at such a time?

Yet the more I thought about school shootings and all that ails us these days, the more the old Andy Griffith Show seemed to hold some sort of answer.

Well, I probably still wouldn't be making this confession except that a few days later, I stumbled upon something on the Internet:

It's not just another Web site for fans of the show and the fumbling deputy.

Plot thickens

No, I had stumbled upon some other folks who also think The Andy Griffith Show has some serious lessons to teach.

Big, timeless, biblical lessons, in fact.

"I had been a fan of the show for a long time," Joey Fann of Huntsville, Ala., explained in a phone call Tuesday. "Fairly recently I started thinking, 'You know, this really teaches some good moral lessons.'

"One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were holding an informal Bible class and getting calls from all over the country."

The class is "Finding the Way Back to Mayberry," taught at Twickenham Church of Christ in Huntsville. And little by little, it has drawn attention from far and wide.

Other churches are starting to offer the Barney Bible classes. And Joey set up the Web site in hopes many more will.

Joey, 33, is a software engineer, not a theologian. But he said the great moral guidance of The Andy Griffith Show is clear.

"You can look at the characters and see so much of yourself in them," he said. "I certainly see a lot of myself in Barney. He's always getting in trouble, and the reason he gets in trouble is that he focuses on himself."

The simplicity of the show also offers comfort, he said. "It's nice to look back and say, 'Life is not as complicated as we make it.' "

His comment reminded me that my wife and I had shared a Mayberry moment on Sunday evening.

Mission statement

We were sitting in the rockers on the front porch. The news magazine I was reading offered a little marriage test. It asked, among other things, if we shared the same basic philosophy of life.

We agreed that we did, then each attempted to voice it at the same time. "Be nice. Be fair," I said.

Coincidentally, Lori also used just four words. But I liked hers even better.

"Be good. Do good," she said.

You know, life really is pretty simple. Lucky for psychiatrists and book publishers, we find lots of ways to complicate it.

But at the root of things, it's really not complex at all. And that struggle to be good and do good was what The Andy Griffith Show was all about.

Joey said he finds it ironic that people often wish they could go back to "the good old days" of that show. But they forget that Andy Griffith aired throughout the 1960s, one of the most tumultuous, contentious times in our history.

Cold War. Civil rights. Urban riots. Vietnam. Student protests. Assassinations. Some "good old days."

Joey said Mayberry isn't about a specific time or place. It's about an attitude, about our priorities.

"I think there are pockets of Mayberry all over the place," he said.

They are places where people remember to talk, to laugh, to listen, to linger.

To care.

Floyd. Otis. Gomer. Andy. Aunt Bee. Barney and Thelma Lou.

What an odd bunch of spiritual guides.


1999 The Dallas Morning News