Lessons Andy Griffith Taught Us...

Around 11 o'clock this morning, I glanced at my Twitter feed and, to my dismay, saw that Andy Griffith had died at 86. When I conjure up childhood memories, our family gathered around watching The Andy Griffith show is one of my most prominent and fond. I was exposed to the show very early on, probably because no one in the world loved it more than my dad. Andy always reminded me of my dad, actually... Kind, laid-back, constant sense of humor, but ready to defend justice at a moment's notice. His character was a constant to me as a kid, one of those comforting TV personalities that could deliver a laugh and a touch of wisdom, no matter which episode happened to be on.

The thing is, while Andy was all those things to me, I can't selfishly think that others didn't "claim" him, too, as the dad, grandpa, friend, or even sheriff that they'd never had, but always wanted. While his most popular role was arguably Andy Taylor, his many characters over the years offered something for everyone- the gruff but sweet Matlock, the precocious Private Will Stockdale in No Time for Sergeants, countless other movie and television roles, and of course our beloved Andy.

No matter how old or young you are, you probably consider Andy "yours"... He belongs to all Americans, representing a simpler, happier, and purer time. We could all share lessons or memories we learned from Andy, but here are just a few that came to mind immediately... And while I intermingle Andy Griffith with Andy Taylor, just humor me. Weren't they really the same person anyway? :)

-Andy taught us that it doesn't take swearing, crudeness, disrespect, or innuendo to make a show successful, relevant, or even hilarious. Watch all 8 seasons (which you could do at my house, since we have entire collection on DVD) and you won't hear a cuss word, an inappropriate joke, or even see Opie get away with disobedience. Humor was found in little things, like Barney's inability to sing (seriously, sooo hilarious!) or the antics of Gomer down at the filling station. (If only shows today would take a page from that book!)

-Andy taught us how to deal with people. On The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Taylor was always kind, always authoritative, yet never condescending to the silly, sometimes ridiculous people around him (Floyd, for example). He might poke fun at Barney, but in his own touching way actually tries to protect him from embarrassment. He shows his soft spot for Otis, dotes on Aunt Bee, encourages Opie, and yet really does toughen up when trouble calls (though it rarely does and is usually in the form of Ernest T. Bass!). His way with people drew them to him... In Mayberry and today, 50 years later.

-Andy showed that being a Christian and being an actor are not mutually exclusive. Did he have a perfect life? Of course not. (Matlock's language could get a little salty, Andy Taylor smoked, etc.) But in Hollywood, where most celebrities act like anyone believing in God is completely crazy, Andy took a stand. He frequently mentioned the Lord and his salvation in interviews, and of course made several Gospel recordings, the most recent of which went platinum. Can a Christian be a success in Hollywood... Or, better yet, can a successful (legendary, actually) actor be a Christian? Andy proved that the answer is YES!

-Andy showed us that it doesn't take much to be happy. On the show, he was the sheriff of a tiny town where Otis (the town drunk) and a handful of moonshiners were just about the most "action" he would see for most of the time. He lived with a spinster aunt and his little boy, had a few close friends, a steady girl, and loved to fish. Sunday was for church and life was too sweet to be rushed. Choir practice was a big deal. Fun was catching Barney on the phone with Juanita. Everyone, from the mayor to Gomer to Rafe Hollister to the Darlins, deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.

So, we say goodbye to an American legend, one who left behind a legacy of fun, of strong morals, of a love for Jesus and a love for America. They sure don't make them like that anymore. Andy will be missed..but somehow I'm pretty sure that he's already gotten out his guitar and is singing his favorite hymns in Heaven. I'd like to think so, anyway! :)



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