As a child, we were blessed to have TBS Superstation out of Atlanta show an after school lineup of some of the best television ever made. We thought the Monkees, Hazel and even the Brady Bunch were present day shows and grew up rushing home to watch these great shows. When the whistling introduction to the Andy Griffith Show came on I settled in for some down home wisdom and the idyllic world of Mayberry where the sheriff didn’t carry a gun.
My favorite moments on that show were how Andy Griffith seemed to be the calm center of the town. No matter what happened, he remained unflappable and level headed. He was the ultimate father figure. Like my own father, people looked to Sheriff Andy to straighten things out and to be the reason that so many people lacked.
Mayberry seemed like a very real place to me. I think because I grew up in a small Southern town and even when we went to visit our grandmother in her small Southern town the goings on in Mayberry seemed very familiar and comfortable to me. As an adult, I realize it was the sense of community that was like a warm embrace in the fictional world of Mayberry and the very real world of my youth. Living in a big city where everyone is anonymous and the sheriff most assuredly carries a gun, I long for something I never thought I would. A town center where I run into people I know and greet them with a genuine smile and eye contact.
I remember how Andy treated others with kindness, understanding and compassion. He was firm when he needed to be and he knew how to handle different people differently. A skill that many people never understand. My grandmother would say, “You catch more flies with honey” and the fictional sheriff of Mayberry practiced that to the amazement of the townsfolk and managed to keep the town safe and functioning in spite of itself.
My grandmother was a lot like Sheriff Andy. She, too, was kind and respected and understood how to approach people the right way in order to win trust and persuade and guide them.
I think what I learned the most from Sheriff Andy Taylor was how to stay calm in a crisis and handle difficult situations with grace and dignity. It was a lesson reinforced and taught from my grandmother and parents as well. It is a Southern trait and one the most successful Southern man or woman will tell you is most revered.
I pause today and remember Andy Griffith for the great character and idyllic town of Mayberry he brought to America and thank him. What better reminder on the Fourth of July week to celebrate small town America and the quiet and strong and compassionate people that live in those towns.
Rest in peace, Andy Griffith, and there’s a town square in Heaven waiting on you.