Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Building Mayberry 2015

Often when I'm asked about our mission at CitySquare, I tell people that "we're trying to build Mayberry."  If you ever watched "The Andy Griffith Show," you'll at least have an inkling as to my meaning.  For sure, Mayberry provides a window into mid-century, small town life in America. 

In some ways the "Mayberry experience" appears basically antithetical to all things 21st century urban!  But, there are principles expressed in the plots, characters and outcomes of just about every episode that relate directly to what makes a community work. 

Consider these. . .
  • People relate naturally, in spite of differences in class, educational attainment, mental capacity, professions, personalities and backgrounds.  An English immigrant, a apparent lunatic from the hills, a family of superstitious mountain-dwellers, a cornpone deputy sheriff, moonshiners, children, gossips, a barber, several pompous mayors, a special aunt, an unarmed officer of the law, a drunk--the list goes on and on--and people find ways to make the community work.
  • Law enforcement displays a very healthy self-understanding.  Andy and Barney function as genuine peace officers.  Sheriff Andy Taylor seldom carries a weapon.  He sees his job as community referee and he focuses on building relationships with everyone in the community.
  • People display deep pride in the community and its history that leads to community confidence and stability.  Filmmakers, leaders from outside public agencies, state law enforcement leaders, visitors of all sorts discover with high regard and amazement the relaxed, connected and talented community.  As a result, the really wise guests leave the community having learned important life lessons.
  • Mayberry inspires laughter, joy and love.  If you are from Mayberry, you have something special going on, and most of the time you know it!
  • At times the community experiences self-doubt.  Whenever the community begins to question itself on the basis of unfavorable comparisons to other communities, you can count on a result that leads community members back to an appreciation for the wealth of Mayberry.
  • Everyone is valued.  From self-absorbed politicians, to newcomers, to criminals and preachers, to Floyd the barber and aunt Bea and her friend Clara--everyone is welcomed. 
  • People "cover" for one another.  A commitment to avoid hurting another person, even in the smallest ways, is a key dimension of the community's social culture. Name the situation, somebody always has someone's back! Be it Barney who can't sing a lick or aunt Bea's "turpentine" pickles, everyone goes to amazing lengths to help neighbors save face and not be embarrassed or discouraged.
  • Teachers hold an honored place in the community and they are supported unconditionally.  
  • Naivet√© and wisdom very often combine with good result--people can be "taken in," but not for long!  Justice results every time.  
  • Treating everyone and every living thing with respect and high regard seems to be the community's operative assumption. 
  • When there is a clear need, the community rallies, cooperates and realizing good results.
  • People don't mind "going above and beyond the call of duty for their beloved Mayberry. As a result, people sacrifice willingly.
  • People forgive failure, as they keep working on community life.
  • The community welcomes newcomers, but with a protective caution for the community.  Outsiders learn quickly that they must prove themselves when it comes to valuing the beloved community.
More could be noted.  But, you get my point.  Mythical Mayberry provides community developers and organizers quite a lot to consider.

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