Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
During my last week of writing the First 15’s, I thought I would include another couple of Andy Griffith Show lessons. “Opie the Birdman" first appeared on September 30, 1963 and was voted one of the top 10 fan favorites.
The show begins with Opie making a slingshot in the courthouse and Barney “showing him” how to use it. Barney explains how slingshots were used in biblical times but he gets confused when Opie asks him where David got the rubber for his slingshot. Barney starts to explain that David cut up an old tire but stops himself when he realizes that was probably not the way it happened.
Opie promises he will shoot only "tin cans and stuff," but when he aims for a tree, he accidentally kills a mother bird. Andy returns home and sees the bird and realizes it was Opie who killed it. Opie’s sadness and guilt are easy to see and even more so after Andy asks him to listen to the chirps of the baby birds who lost their mother. Opie takes it upon himself to raise the baby birds. He does all he can to feed them and care for them until the time comes for him to let them go.
It is a difficult decision but after a father-son talk, the birds are released. Opie says, "The cage sure looks awful empty, don't it, Pa?"
"Yes, son, it does," Andy replies. "But don't the trees seem nice and full?"
This episode was one of the more difficult ones to watch when I was younger. It was certainly not as fun and entertaining as many of the others. There is the moment we realize, like Opie did, that some things, once broken and hurt, stay broken and hurt. And there comes the moment when we realize we need to face our parents and deal with the consequences.
There is a great deal to appreciate in this episode as we see the ways that Andy and Opie work through this tragedy. Opie does the right things after his mistake. He takes responsibility for his actions. He raises the birds and later sets them free.
“Hope I did all the right things,” Opie tells the first bird he releases. “Please fly away.” As a parent, this is a pretty accurate description of how I felt when my children left home. I was reminded of this as my oldest son and daughter-in-law were walking away from me after I had pronounced them as husband and wife at a ceremony in Albuquerque on Mother’s Day. “I hope I did all the right things.”
While some of us have a hard time letting go, we can rest assured that our children have learned a great deal over the years. And the good news is that there is still time for all of us to learn more! We can hold fast to the promise that God is with us. God is with our children. We are not alone. Thanks Be to God.
Gracious God, We give thanks for the lessons we have learned over the years. Help us to continue to take responsibility for what we say and do and aim in the right direction. Grant us your grace that we might face the future unafraid. We offer our thanks for the gift of this and every day. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.