Everything I Ever Need to Know, I Could Have Learned in Mayberry

by Andy Wood on July 3, 2012

in Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, Love, Principle of Legacy

I was going to write something about America or the lost art of Independence or something like that today.  Then I heard that Andy Griffith died.  What – or who – could be more quintessentially American than that?

Andy and his neighbors in Mayberry came into our home weekly when I was a kid – and daily through syndication for years after that.  And there was a reason.  Yes, he served as a reminder of a simpler time.  After all, can you imagine anybody but Opie having a secret password – much less a dozen of them?  But he also reminded us of the values and wisdom we’re capable of, even today.

Nobody ever actually lived in Mayberry.  Yet vicariously millions of us have.  There wisdom wasn’t reserved for ivory tower elitists or political think tanks.  Lifetime lessons were readily available from places like the Sheriff’s office, Floyd’s Barber Shop, or Gomer and Goober’s Service Station.  The cast of characters, always good for a laugh at ourselves, also reminded us of somebody we knew.

Everything I ever needed to know, I could have learned in Mayberry.  So could you.  Here’s just a sampling…

1.  Go fishing with your boy.

Every show, from 1960 to 1968, started and ended the same – with father and son going to and from the lake to fish.  It’s probably the most recognizable TV theme song in history.  And it may be the most important lesson of all.  My God, how we have a father hunger in this country.

It isn’t about the hobby – it’s about the time spent together.  And every week, Andy’s message was always the same – My boy is worth my time.

2.  Have a porch and a swing and use both generously.

Everybody needs a place to breathe.  To slow down.  To talk in quieter tones and listen with respect.  To think and give supper time to digest.  For Andy and his family, it was the swing on the front porch.  Even Barney could relax a little there.

You may not have one of those architecturally.  But you can sure have something like it.  For me it’s a back porch with a wicker table and chairs that looks out across our backyard.  It’s a place to watch my cat try to seduce a dove while the blackbirds and blue jays make hacking or screaming noises at him – and the purple martins dive down for a drink from the pool.  For you it may be the balcony overlooking the city or a chair in front of the fireplace or the woods or field or pond or garden behind your house.  Of course, it doesn’t matter what it is if you never use it.

3.  Have laws and enforce them – but with horse sense and humor.

Then there was Barney Fife – everyman’s symbol of stupid and legalistic government.  Andy served as a reminder that we have rules and laws for a reason. But he reminded us that government exists for people – the people don’t exist for the government.  He could catch the bad guys when he needed to, but he was just as diligent to keep his goofball deputies from hauling in the whole town for one reason or another.  He even taught Otis, the town drunk, to lock himself up and let himself out when he sobered up.

4.  Apply lavish doses of empathy, apologies and forgiveness.

Like every small town, Mayberry was a place where everybody knew your bid-ness.  They could get on each other’s last nerve, and some of the biggest trouble came when people failed to understand each other.  Yes it was so small a place that everybody had to find a way to get along.  Translation – they didn’t just know your business – they had to know your heart.  And when they messed up, they apologized.  And when people apologized, they extended grace.  Sometimes it took a while; Floyd and Howard and Emmet could attest to that.  But they always pressed through as community.

5.  Embrace the weird and wonderful in everybody.

Mayberry had it all – the maternal (Aunt Bea), the adventurous (Opie), the gossip (Clara), the poetic airhead (Floyd), the fastidious (Howard), the gruff (Emmet), the nervous and pretentious (Barney), the alcoholic (Otis), the educator (Helen), and various hicks from the sticks (including Earnest T. Bass).  At the vortex of this convocation of the weird, Sheriff Taylor loved and accepted each as they were – and taught us to do the same.

6.  Everybody needs an Aunt Bee.

Often underappreciated, Aunt Bee was cherished more for what she did.  And she did a lot.  Andy Taylor was a widower and single father.  Aunt Bee moved in to be the surrogate mother who kept the house – and the town – moving they way it should be.  A source of order, a faithful helper, a reminder that food should taste good, and the creator of an environment where anybody could feel at home, Aunt Bee did all that and more.  You need people like that.  So do I.

7.  You only get a certain number of bullets – use wisely.

Andy was famous for being the Sheriff Without a Gun.  His greatest weapons were his wits and instincts about human nature.  He was also famous for only giving Barney one bullet at a time – mainly for his own protection.  There were exceptions to both rules.  But in Mayberry, weapons of destruction, mass or otherwise, were cautiously, used – and always as a last resort.

8.  Solve problems, but not at the expense of someone else’s dignity.

Every week Mayberry’s problem at hand would be solved.  The crook would go to jail, the Darling family would head back to the woods, or the mayor would be appeased.  But never was anybody shamed or humiliated in the process.  Andy always seemed to have a way to make people feel affirmed or respected, even when he was caught in the middle of a conflict or awkward situation.

9.  Share the credit for your success.

Andy always made sure to make Barney look like a hero whenever possible, and even to give credit where it wasn’t due.  He even made Otis a deputy once so his visiting family could think he had amounted to something.  He was secure enough in who he was and what he did that he didn’t mind sharing the praise.

10.  Wherever you do life, do it together.

People in Mayberry brought the community into the church, and took the church into the community.  In fact, community was what made Mayberry, well, Mayberry.  They were proud of their history, to be sure.  They certainly supported their schools.  But whatever they did, they did it together.  Everybody had a part to play, and was expected to play his or her part.  There were no isolated cynics or people with a sense of entitlement.  People came together.  They would argue some, question some, get annoyed some or hurt some.  But when the sun would set on another episode, they were still faithfully engaged in each other’s lives.


Imagine a world where Dad was interruptible at work, home for supper, and available to actually have meaningful conversations with his kids.  What if he turned down the promotion, stuck it out through the crappy marriage, or did whatever it took to take a boy and grow him into a man?  What if he didn’t know the answers to the awkward questions, but tried anyway?

What if everybody had to go sit on the porch swing for 30 minutes after supper and use their quiet voices, or no voice at all?  What if rules applied to fools, but we expected the best – not the worst – from our neighbors?  Imagine a world where people said, “I’m sorry” and meant it.  Where people spent extraordinary time and effort trying to understand each other – even those who are completely different from us.  And where they acted like relationships were worth actually working on.

What if it really did take a village to raise a child? And that village, with its Aunt Bees and Howard-the-County-Agents were readily available to teach life lessons and make sure our sons and daughters had some structure, warm cookies and cold milk to make sense of the world?

Imagine a world where for a lifetime people got six, and only six, bullets.  Or only six opportunities to reject someone or six times to say “I quit!”  How would your life be different?  How would mine?  What if with every problem we faced, the only way we could ever solve it is to make someone else shine and feel important and respected?

And what if, when the whole world may abandon us, there’s somewhere to call home?  Where like the folks in Mayberry, they know all the crap about us but love us anyway?

Nobody ever actually lived in Mayberry.  But a little bit of Mayberry lives in us all.  And we’re all a bit richer and wiser for it.  So long, Andy.  Thanks for letting your light shine with love and laughter.

debra July 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm

This is superb! You could write a book on this subject.
Mayberry is an archetype for wholesome.
Love, love , love this!
debra´s last blog post ..Inch by Inch

Andy Wood July 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Thanks, Debra, for the encouragement. Keep reading!

Eric Chaffin July 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Excellent… as always!

Andy Wood July 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Thanks my friend.

Martha Orlando July 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi, Andy,
I just tried to leave a comment which failed, but wanted to try again.
I simply loved this post of yours that my friend, Debra, referred me to. I have added you to my e-mail feed as I will look forward to your new posts.
If you will click on my latest blog, you will also see references to Mayberry. I believe this place lives in all of our hearts, our dreams, our hopes.
Blessings to you!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post .." . . . Let Freedom Ring!"

Andy Wood July 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Hi Martha,

Thanks for the great encouragement and for subscribing. I love your blog and will do the same. We lived briefly in greater Atlanta in the 90s (Lawrenceville), and I know your area pretty well. And yeah, in the words of Rascal Flatts, “I miss Mayberry…” 🙂

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