You got me. I’m an Andy Griffith fan. Give me my polka-dotted pjs, some Oreos, and a 12-hour Mayberry-a-Thon and I am a happy woman!

The other day, as I was leaving the Target parking lot, traffic had backed up because it was lunch time and I was having a hard time getting back onto Hwy 280. The shiny SUVs and BMWs poked along, paying no attention to the person who had been sitting at the yield sign through two green, then yellow, then red lights. Then, an older gentleman in a pick-up truck paused and gave me the familiar wave to go ahead. I reciprocated the “thank you” wave and smiled. At the next light, I returned the good deed to another car who needed to get into the flow of traffic. No wave. No “thank you.” OK. Whatever. I need to learn not to expect people to be polite. Then, I thought, the man in the truck had Mayberry values. This other woman did not.

Here’s another scenario. Earlier this week, I took Madeline with me to the post office to buy stamps. As we were leaving, a small, dark-haired woman opened the door to leave ahead of us. I know that for you and me, instinct would say, “Hold the door for everyone, particularly a woman with a flippin’ baby carrier.” The woman at the post office was not as bright as you and I. She, apparently was raised in the woods by a pack of wolves who did not have Mayberry values. She let the door close in my face without so much as a second glance. I said, “Thank you! Have a nice day!” anyway, because it was the polite thing to say and I was raised to have manners.

Let me explain what I mean by Mayberry values. These are the values with which I was raised in our little neighborhood, surrounded by elderly Southern ladies and gentlemen. They are values of common courtesy, good manners, and kindness just for the sake of being kind. They are the values that led Andy, Aunt Bee, and the others to take casseroles and desserts to Miss Emma when she “took sick.” They are the same values that ensured that when Opie was rude or disrespectful or did something careless, there were always negative consequences instead of a bail-out. These same values prompted people to say hello to one another, to know how long to stay before overstaying their welcome, and to help others in need.

Yes, I admit I am a stickler for manners. And, I’m not talking about white gloves and tea time here. I mean basic consideration for other people. Every rule of proper etiquette has been put in place for a reason, and that reason is usually to make sure that we treat others the way we would want to be treated. Would you want someone sharing your personal information without asking you? That’s why it’s polite to mind your own business. There was an Andy Griffith Show episode about that. Would you want someone to keep you up at night with a lot of noise, knowing that you had to get up early? There’s an Andy Griffith Show episode about that.

Did you know that there’s a reason we don’t put our elbows on the table? It’s so that you sit up straighter so that you can participate in conversation with other people at the table. OK, there’s no episode about that, but there is one where the Darlings are eating supper with the Taylors and have terrible table manners.  But, that’s a post for another time.

Think about it, though. Who were the only people on the show portrayed as not knowing how to mind their manners, respect others, and obey the Golden Rule? The Darlings and Ernest T. Bass – illiterate hillbillies with no education who were quite possibly inbred.

Mayberry values also cover acts of kindness. In one Christmas episode, Aunt Bee makes Christmas dinner for the family of an inmate who is in jail because he has lost his job and been evicted from his home on Christmas. Between the Taylors bringing Christmas dinner and mean old Ben Weaver bringing presents for the kids, it turns out to be a wonderful Christmas for everyone because they all acted in kindness.

I tried to remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas when there were no non-family members sitting at our table. I can’t remember one. There was always someone there from Daddy’s work or a friend of my parent’s who didn’t have any family and was going to be lonely for the holidays. If someone couldn’t afford to have gifts under the tree that year, my parents made sure Santa came. If someone didn’t have enough to eat or shoes or a jacket when it got cold, my parents stepped up and pitched in, whether we had much or had little.  They didn’t do it for a pat on the back. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

If you are the mayor, Ellie the pharmacist, or Helen the teacher, you are not superior in any way to Goober the mechanic, Juanita the waitress, or even Otis the town drunk for that matter. And, if you think you can talk down to them because you have more of whatever it is you have more of (education, status, money, etc.) perhaps you should try to fix your own car and stay home to eat. We were all created by the same God and not one of us has the right to treat people as if they were beneath us. We should give the cashier at Publix the same friendly smile we give to colleagues at our own jobs.

I once heard a man say that he thought Southern hospitality was “mean,” because it requires things to be done a certain way. Why do I have a feeling this man’s children are the ones who don’t get invited back to friends’ houses because they don’t know how to say “please” or “thank you” or to pick up after themselves?

So, what happened to Mayberry values? Did they really disappear so long ago? I’m only 33 and I was certainly raised to mind my manners and treat other people the way I want to be treated. Are these values really so old-fashioned and out-of-date?

Maybe. But, you’d better believe that we’ll be passing Mayberry values along to Madeline.

Advertisements