Those of us old enough to remember the 1960s know it was a decade marked by assassinations, civil rights battles, the sexual revolution, an increase in drug experimentation, and the Vietnam War.
There was much turmoil, but millions of us found solace by tuning in to one of three available TV channels to watch The Andy Griffith Show.
Week after week, Americans tuned in to a place where folks genuinely loved and looked after each other. Mayberry may have been a fictional town, but for many, it was the place they longed to call home.
Growing up, I often asked myself what would Sheriff Andy Taylor do when faced with challenges. It helped immensely and I give the program plenty credit for helping me through life by setting some key examples.
I’ve been aching for simpler times.
In many ways I see similarities in those turbulent 60s and today. But it appears we are living in a world that’s filled with a lot more anger and bitterness and hate.
People seem willing to go to court or to start a fight whenever anyone even makes the slightest mistake or doesn’t agree with their lifestyle demands.
Congress has become so polarized on both sides that they can’t get anything done without first playing their game of “political chicken” to see how close to the edge they can take us before we go over the ledge.
Issues like racism, abortion and the same-sex marriage debate continue to divide the American people. The mainstream media can’t be trusted and seem to want to divide us. But we could learn a thing or two about living in Mayberry, and maybe find some peace with others and within ourselves along the way.
I climbed a great career ladder with an admirable company by modeling many of my thoughts after Sheriff Taylor. Even today, I still ask “what would Andy do?”
With that in mind, Dodie and I decided to head out to Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina while on our month long roadtrip. Many say, and the city itself claims, that Mt. Airy was the inspiration for Mayberry.
We learned much more than I thought we would.
According to George Lindsay, who played Goober in the series, “One of the incredible things about every single episode is that Andy insisted each show have a moral point – something good, lofty and moral. It’s a shame current shows on TV don’t adopt that high road.”
Here are some key things I’ve learned along the way that was underlined by visiting Andy Griffith’s childhood home, his museum, Floyd’s Barbershop, Wally’s Garage and Main Street.
1. Lead by Example. It’s important to remember that others see you and can be influenced by your lifestyle. It’s important to model the Mayberry mindset consistently if you want others to see its value and start living it for themselves.
Early in my leadership career at H-E-B Food/Drugs, my vice president Ralph Mehringer told me to “always be aware that people are watching, learning and ‘being’ from you. The example you set will be reflected in your organization.”
I took his wisdom to heart.
2. Value Other People. This means putting the needs and feelings of others ahead of your own and learning to be humble.
For me, it was delivering pizzas to night staff, including janitors and maintenance technicians, surprising them at 3 a.m. Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, or their spouses and children’s names (and activities: sports, art, hobbies, etc.). Visiting their family members in hospitals, attending weddings and funerals across Texas was a leadership quality I learned and practiced from H-E-B.
I suppose I’ve hired and terminated hundreds of people over the years. The concept of valuing them, even when letting them go, was rewarding.
Look how Andy treated the town drunk, Otis. Always with respect.
3. Seek Peace With People. This goes hand-in-hand with the first two and emphasizes the importance of love, patience, and the ability to let things go. It means accepting people who are different from you, and it means looking for non-violent or non-confrontational ways to resolve conflicts as often as possible.
My current post retirement job is being a golf marshal at two beautiful courses at Fair Oaks Golf and Country Club in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country. Conflict comes with the job throughout each day. But I can truly say that 99% of anyone I’ve had conflict with eventually turned out to be a friend. I respect them.
4. Live With Grace. This includes things like tolerance, forgiveness, trust, helping each other, and just generally treating people with the same kind of respect you expect from them. Andy was a master.
5. Slow Down. Getting enough rest is a value that seems to be under-appreciated in today’s society. From cars to computers and cell phones, technology seems great because we imagine all the ways it can make our work easier so we can have more leisure time. But the reality is that now we live in a world where everybody’s moving in hyper-speed – go, go, go all the time!
In Mayberry, everything seemed to move at an easier pace. People stayed active, yes, but they were never too busy to sit on the porch in the evening or to go out on a date to the duck pond. (“Barney, why do you want to go to the duck pond at night? You won’t be able to see the ducks!”)
Folks in Mayberry knew the value of a hard day’s work, but they also realized the importance of leaving work at work, taking time to enjoy the company of friends and family, and enjoying the simple things in life.
I’ve been particularly disenchanted with naysayers, socialist driven politicians and political correctness police going after businesses that close on Sundays so their employees could benefit.
The whole “closed on Sundays” thing was a lot more common in the 1960s than it is today, but the truth is that, for thousands of years, people have generally made a point of resting one day a week – it’s only really been in the last couple decades that this value has become more and more lost.
The idea of a day of rest began because people wanted to honor the Ten Commandments found in the Bible, where God instructed his people to honor the Sabbath. (The word “Sabbath” literally means to cease working.)
The point of slowing down, then, for many people including the citizens of Mayberry, was and is often not just to clear the mind, but also to reconnect with God and seek spiritual rejuvenation.
Maybe for you, you choose to live by this code because it ties in with your religious beliefs. It’s possible to link all five of these keys to Biblical teachings, and in fact, I’m sure that’s one major reason why the folks in Mayberry live this way. While they rarely quoted Scripture, there are several episodes that feature hymns and church – we know these things are on their minds.
If you don’t choose to live this way for religious reasons, maybe you just do it because you know it’s the right thing to do.