I was very sad to hear that Andy Griffith died. His show's jaunty, whistling theme had always signaled the start of 30 minutes of sitcom delight for us in a time when families sat together to enjoy largely wholesome programming on television. "It's Andy Griffith!" Dad would shout, and we would all run downstairs and plop in front of the TV. Sheriff Andy Taylor's positive manipulation of a questionable situation made him the kind of man any town would want as the law.
At some point in life, most of us have probably thought it would be idyllic to live in a place where people know and support each other, leave their doors unlocked with confidence and are afraid of practically nothing. Once upon a time that kind of living seemed commonplace. These days? Not so much. It's easy to be initially mistrustful of others and get caught up in the doldrums of every day.
I've been pondering the character and charm of Andy Griffith's Sheriff Taylor and what he did to inspire such love and loyalty. I think it comes down to a few basic ideas:
Be True To Your Values
Sheriff Taylor knew what he would tolerate and what just wouldn't fly in Mayberry. He encouraged and supported his friends and family in their wacky antics, but we always knew where he stood and he was a quiet, rock-solid leader for the town when they needed one.
Give Others The Benefit Of The Doubt
He gave people a chance to either prove or hang themselves (as they did so conveniently by the end of each show). There was never a finger-pointing exercise about who was right or wrong, either.
Find Humor In The Moment
There was always room for laughter. That's what makes a good sitcom, of course. But the lessons to be learned were always lightly tossed with warm and fuzzy moments, which made everything so much more entertaining.
Always Have At Least One Sidekick
Andy had Barney along for most of those laughs, because, really, where would we have been without the zest of Barney Fife?
Be The Moral Compass
There were opportunities for Andy or some of his cronies to take shortcuts, but they didn't pan out. Sometimes in convincing others to do what was right he faced derision; despite that, he always kept to his path.
Never Fear, Because Everything Really Will Work Out
We just knew Sheriff Andy Taylor would find his way out of any problem. He believed in himself, exuded calm, cool thinking and could be counted on to do good for the people he protected. Each episode ended with the right decision having created the best result in a tight 30 minutes. (If only life were that convenient.)
You may not know that Andy Griffith the actor actually had a lot of input in the writing of each episode, though he never received a writer's credit. It was quite evident that he embodied the role of Sheriff Taylor with panache and a fearless attitude toward life, always accompanied by his wide Cheshire Cat smile.
He taught us quite a few lessons about how to run a town. And how to live a life well, come to think of it. We'll miss you, Sheriff.