Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Finding the Way Back to Mayberry

Each year at our church we have a Lenten Series during the five weeks between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.  Most years we simply have worship services with the usual components of worship.  Some years we have a Lenten Study where we study a book and discuss it.  This year I decided to do something different, something that I had heard about from another church.  We are watching episodes of the old Andy Griffith television series and discussing them.  So far, we have seen two episodes.  First, it was "Dogs, Dogs, Dogs" in which Opie brings a pack of dogs to the sheriff's office and they have to decide what to do with them. That episode taught us about mercy.  Then, we saw an episode entitled, "Mr. McBeevee" about a man that Opie had seen when he was playing in the woods and when he described him, neither Andy or Barney would believe that Opie had really seen the man.  That episode taught us about faith and believing one another's unique experiences.  This week, we will see an episode entitled, "The Sermon for Today" about a guest preacher who comes to Mayberry to preach at the local church.  The preacher is from the big city and gives them things to think about that they decide need some action.  

Our attendance at these Wednesday night video discussions has been very good, more than we usually have had in years past for Lenten services.  Why do people enjoy watching these old familiar black and white programs from back in the 1960s?  Why is this so attractive to so many in a rural church setting?  Perhaps the experiences that happen in Mayberry may mirror somewhat the experiences that people have had in other small towns similar to Mayberry.  I live in a small town and many experiences in small towns are very much like those in other towns about the same size.  Maybe people long for nostalgia, for the good ole days.  I have been told by more than one person that they like watching these videos because they are so down to earth and reliable.  You can watch them in a group of people of all ages and not have to fear that there could be content that may embarrass you.  The videos teach moral and practical lessons that were true when the programs first aired but are still just as valid today.  

The town of Mayberry, to many, represents the simple lifestyle that many people enjoyed during the 1960s when the episodes aired on national television.  The soldiers had returned from World War II over a decade before and prosperity was growing.  People were living comfortable lives in the small towns and suburbs of our nation.  People could laugh at the conversations and stunts on the Andy Griffith Show but could also relate to the moral and ethical lessons that were taught through the program.  

Mayberry represents to many the more simple way of life before life became so complicated by technology and progress that has brought us many conveniences but has also complicated our lives in many ways.  Technology is great but I have fought with my smart phone so many times since getting it because it will not do what I want it to do and have thought many times that life was simpler when I just had that flip phone and could talk on it with ease even if it cannot do all the things my smart phone can do.  Life was a lot simpler when we had to turn the rotor on the landline phone (because that was all there was) and only had three television stations to choose from.  Today we have a myriad of choices in so many areas of life and it leaves us feeling overwhelmed at times.  

Mayberry also represents the life style that many of us yearn for and some of us emulate when we go on vacation.  We may choose to sit by the lake or mountains and relax while looking at beautiful scenery and resting all we want or just looking around the area at whatever interests us.  We long for lazy days that seem to go on forever and practice some of that when we are away from home.  Americans especially think we have to be busy or occupied all the time or we feel lazy or ungrateful or inadequate.  We want to be on the go as much as possible and do not make a daily practice of valuing each moment and enjoying the day whether we are at work or play.  

When my wife and I were in Germany and Austria a few years ago, we had to get used to the custom of stores closing at noon so that the clerks could go home for lunch.  Most of the villages we visited observed this custom and the stores would close at noon and reopen at 2 or 3 pm.  The clerks were given the time to go home and eat lunch and maybe have a short nap before returning to the work.  The stores would be open to 6 or 8 pm but the noon rest time was important to them.  Can you imagine stores in the US adopting that practice?  They would be beat out by competitors who did not follow the practice and most of us would shop elsewhere because we wanted what we wanted immediately and could not wait for the stores to reopen.  

The longing for Mayberry in our lives may be partly the inner desire to have a slower, more satisfying lifestyle.  It could also be a clinging to the past that is part of our upbringing.  Whatever it represents to us, we enjoy thinking about the more simple lifestyle and sometimes even making it a part of our lives, even if it is just for a week or two when we are on vacation.  

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