In the opening scene of the second episode, the Walton children gather around the kitchen table counting a tin of change.
They saved $2.22 to go to the carnival, where they will see the bearded lady, the strong man, the dancing bear, “and enough left over for a stick of cotton candy to share,” John Boy exclaims to the children who then break out in actual cheers.
However, there is no cotton candy, no carnival. Their fun is halted by a pair of glasses that flies across the room, shattering against the cast-iron, wood-burning stove. The children see their grandmother in need, and choose to use there carnival money to buy her new glasses.
The 1970s television series “The Waltons”, was a family, period drama set in a rural community during the great depression, and it teaches a great deal about handling hardship, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone in rural Oklahoma today who doesn’t know just as much.
The real lesson in this episode of the Waltons is about learning to love one’s neighbor before one’s self.
The Sheriff reveals that the carnival manager skipped town with all the earnings, leaving his staff behind. While most of the crew ran-off, there were still a few strays, so the family should lock their doors and windows at night.
“I hear tell they got no respect for other people’s property,” the Sheriff says. “Drinking, smoking carrying on.”
As any concerned mother would, Olivia immediately warns the children to stay away from strangers. But a monkey in a bright red vest has other plans. He leads the children up to an old barn where they are introduced to a magician, an actor with dwarfism, a clown and an aerial tightrope artist.
When the kids head home again an argument ensues around the kitchen table. John Boy insists that the carnival folk seem like good people. Olivia, protective mother and devote Southern Baptist, will not invite carousing, sinful alcoholics into her home.
This is when John, the family patriarch speaks up.
“Liv, you can’t judge people on where they come from, what they wear and what they do. We never turned anyone away from this door, and we’re not going to start now.”
The Waltons invite the carnival folks in with apprehension. The carnies are nice enough, but the extreme differences in the two colliding cultures inevitably leads to conflict.
Olivia spurns the carnies’ recklessness, and the carnies chafe under Olivia’s hard-lined propriety.
But instead of falling out and holding grudges, both sides take the time to really understand the other person's point of view.
They dine together. They talk about their differences. They let go of the self-righteousness that blinds them from seeing their neighbor clearly.
It’s not easy.
The carnies have to adopt some slow and family-friendly southern ways. Olivia has to abandon her preconceived notions and open up her heart to someone much different than herself. They have to move past their misgivings and reach out a hand in love.
Easy is ‘my way or the highway’. But easy leads to broken hearts, not conflict resolution.
Moving forward requires everyone to sacrifice a little pride and love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
That’s what we can learn from the Waltons.
Kayleigh Thesenvitz is a reporter with the Claremore Progress.