WYTHE COUNTY, July 3, 2012 — Remember growing up when watching television with your family was an event? It was no casual gathering left to chance and whim, and in a lot of homes a ritual accompanied it as strictly adhered to as any religious observance.
The dinner dishes would be cleared, and everyone would take their unspoken designated place before the television in anticipation of real entertainment. It was understood that no interruption was tolerated while watching these shows, and walking in front of the television or making idle conversation was met with scolding glances from the rest of the family.
Family, friends, and neighbors were all doing the same thing, so other than an occasional ill-timed phone call that went unanswered; all were free to watch without interruption. Such was the case with “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Each week we all tuned in to laugh and see what lesson was to be learned by watching the wonderfully diverse and original characters on Andy Griffith.
Charity, kindness, honesty, personal responsibility, community involvement, respect, love thy neighbor, a strong work ethic, and humor were always present within the under current of the weekly dialogue, but nothing trumped tolerance as the weekly lesson.
Imagine what would happen to the loveable, but eccentric characters today. Harmless Otis Campbell would be doing hard time in a regional jail instead of benignly staggering to his own personal cell every weekend.
Barney Fife would be an angry undercover security guard at WalMart, still failing the physical to be a policeman but taking the test each time anyways.
The Darlings would be cast in a remake of “Deliverance.” Ernest T. Bass and his bag of rocks would be institutionalized. Gomer and Goober would be the target of derisive jokes and torment by local bullies.
All the “outsiders” who happened through Mayberry would be promptly ticketed or tossed in a cell without Aunt Bee’s wonderful fried chicken to make their incarceration more comfortable and without gaining the knowledge that life in a small town may be slower, but no less fulfilling than big city life.
We watched Ron Howard, who played Opie, literally grow up on the show. We witnessed his first crush on a little girl who could not afford a winter coat, so Opie saved his money to buy her one, despite his father’s misguided assumption he was just being selfish.
We watched him learn that winning was not everything, but being a good sport is always important. We watched him stumble into puberty, and realized we were not alone in feeling awkward during these formative years, and we were comforted by it.
We watched him learn the love of family and community was, and always will be the most important lesson in life.
Apparently Ron Howard took all these lessons to heart, because he turned out to be one fine human being. Being a die hard Andy Griffith fan, I have always made a point of reading anything written about Mr. Howard, and I am happy to report I have never read one bad thing about him.
Despite his huge success as a filmmaker, Ron Howard never lost sight of the lessons he learned from Andy Griffith so long ago. His Twitter upon learning of Mr. Griffith’s passing; “His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life. I’m forever grateful. RIP Andy.”
My allegiance to the show is so firm that I often use it as a barometer of character when making new acquaintances. If I meet someone who does not like “The Andy Griffith Show,” they immediately become somewhat suspect in my mind. How could anyone not like it?
With Andy in charge, he taught us all what we seem to have forgotten over the years; that every living being on this planet has something to offer; something to teach us, if we will just listen to them. More than anything, Andy taught us tolerance.
Andy is gone now, but the 249 episodes that live on are a legacy to a time in America when being good was not an anomaly, but the only acceptable outcome.
Thank you Andy Griffith, and rest in peace, you certainly earned it.
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