“I sure wish we could go back to those days.” That’s a sentiment I get sometimes when I watch reruns of the TV classic, The Andy Griffith Show. And you probably feel the same way, too.
With the passing of Andy Griffith this summer, reruns of the show have been shown on a regular basis. Once again we’ve enjoyed life in Mayberry, with Sheriff Andy Taylor, his son, Opie, Aunt Bea, and, of course, Barney Fife. It was coincidental that our church had planned to have a class this summer on Wednesday nights on the show and its moral values. This has been done by our church before and by other churches in this area. I’m enjoying leading the class. (The correct church term now is not teaching, but “facilitating.”) There are some very good moral lessons in those episodes. But they are also entertaining and I get to choose the programs that I want to use. No color episodes, the best ones are in black and white.
The Andy Griffith Show premiered in the fall of 1960. The show ran for eight years, and was never out of the top ten in television viewers for the entire time the show was on the air. Don Knotts, as Barney, and Frances Bavier, as Aunt Bea, won several Emmy Awards for their acting in the series. Ironically, Andy Griffith never won an Emmy. But Andy was the driving force behind the show and its success. The show has remained popular, even after the last episode was filmed. For many years rerun episodes were being shown daily. There were many fan clubs of the show, and legions of just plain fans.
Like many of you, I grew up with The Andy Griffith Show. As a matter of fact, Opie and I were the same age. We all could relate to Mayberry. It was right here in North Carolina. When Andy and Barney talked about “goin’ up to Raleigh,” we knew what they were talking about.
But do we really want to go back to those days? Remember the Cold War? I do remember being told how to crawl under our desks in case those evil Russians launched a nuclear bomb. That’s scary to a first grader. Then there was the Vietnam War and all the civil unrest of the 1960’s. If you are an African-American, you sure don’t want to go back to those days. And think about summers without air conditioning. Trying to sleep at the foot of the bed, hoping to catch a faint breeze coming through the window on a sultry summer night is not something I long for its return.
So why do so many of us watch The Andy Griffith Show, and wish we could be back in Mayberry? It’s those same moral lessons and good hearted people that make it so easy to teach, or facilitate, the class on Wednesday night. Show writer, Bill Idelson said, “You know what the secret of the show is? You know why everybody loves it? It’s about man’s humanity to man rather than man’s inhumanity to man.” The people of Mayberry were good people. Some were nuts, as Barney would say, (and he would know) but they were good people and they treated each other with love and respect. It also helped that the show had excellent writers, directors and actors.
But I think there’s another reason many of us look back to yesterday days in Mayberry. And it has to do with today. Well, more with tomorrow and the future. Back in the sixties, when I was growing up, my parents knew that my sister and I would have a better life than they did. They worked hard to make it so. Their present may have been hard, but they knew the future for their kids would be better. They had hope for the future, and that hope made their present worth living and gave it purpose.
But that is not so today. Just last week I heard about a survey that stated that only 14% of adults surveyed by pollsters feel that their children will have more than they have. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed feel their children will have less. That’s not a lot of hope for the future.
But we should have hope for our future. God does. In Jeremiah 29:11, God proclaims, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” A future and a hope. The present doesn’t have to be so bad after all.