When trying to decide on a 2021 resolution on how to improve myself, a thought that had popped into my head recently came back to the forefront. I was almost grown before it occurred to me that not everyone was born into a good, loving family. I assumed all kids had parents and other kinfolk who loved them and were nice to them. Some of my friends’ situations emerged to show me that things were quite different than they seemed. I’ve met people who were born into money, but not born into love
They were the poorest people I’ve known. Many of them turned to drugs, alcohol, and other self-destructive behavior to try and escape the loneliness and isolation they felt. That’s how much a close family matters. In 1972, against all odds, a new show took down two juggernauts of television: The Flip Wilson Show and The Mod Squad. Which new show knocked Flip and Mod Squad from their ratings perches?
A show about a large, poor family struggling to make it through the Great Depression. How could this happen? Why would Americans rather watch a family try to scrape together their last two nickels, instead of a funny guy or young, cool crime fighters? I’m no anthropologist, but it seems fairly simple to me.
The Waltons loved and supported each other, and it showed. That’s not something you got from Flip Wilson dressed in drag, or car chases. Stars of the Waltons, including Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen, have said they received a lot of fan mail from viewers who wished they could be part of their clan.
This was a fictional TV family, yet many wanted to be part of what they saw – love and support. Actors on other family-TV shows of the era reported similar mail. Actors from the Brady Bunch said they also received notes from viewers who actually believed they were a real family and were envious that Greg, Marcia, Jan, Peter, Cindy, and Bobby had it made. Think about that. Kids across America wrote actors to ask if they could join their make believe family, because it was better than their real one.
There’s more openness today when it comes to individual feelings. People can reach out for help when it comes to depression and other mental struggles. But, half a century ago, as hard as it is to believe today, people just didn’t talk about their feelings. Often, they still don’t. When I was growing up, it was a time when you also didn’t talk about cancer or heart disease. A diagnosis was to be kept quiet and you kept it to yourself. As absurd as that sounds today, that’s actually how it was.
All of these things would explain how I didn’t know that many of my own friends were unhappy and suffering – and had been the entire time we knew each other. Which in many cases was all our lives. I wasn’t born into money. I was born into something much better. Lots of folks who love me and have always tried to give me every opportunity to improve my situation and myself. The year 2020 likely accelerated many mental frustrations for people of all ages. My resolution for 2021 is to pay more attention to friends and family, and reach out to them if it seems they need help.
We’ve just gone through the holiday season. Gifts are nice, but the best gifts you can receive are Salvation and being born into a family who loves and supports you. I was. But not everyone was as fortunate.
We can’t be The Waltons, but we can be ourselves. And sometimes, that’s just enough to help someone else connect to a part of them that is missing. Let’s make our resolutions about others in 2021. The more we can help others, the more we help ourselves.
©2020 John Moore To send John a message; buy his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, or listen to his Weekly 5-Minute Podcast; visit his website at TheCountryWriter.com.