This phrase, made famous in the 1970s by the very popular American TV series The Waltons, was often used as a light-hearted joke, perhaps suggesting a sense of sentimental kindness.
Yet those who sat down once a week with the rest of the family to watch the programme may well have been too young then to recognise the underlying message shared by this and several other light entertainment series, mainly American, of the time. However, perhaps series like The Waltons should be considered as some of the most spiritual output ever aired on television!
This particular family live in a fictional mountain rural area of Virginia in the `30s and `40s, through the years of the Depression and World War II and its aftermath. John-Boy is the eldest of seven children to parents John and Olivia, living alongside grandparents Zeb and Esther. They subsist by farming and hunting. Over more than two hundred episodes and six movies, as times grow tougher, we see the children gradually lose their carefree barefoot ways as they face the harsh adult world.
The diverse storylines invite viewers to gather together and enjoy a programme purely for pleasure and relaxation. Yet what we have here is no less than an allegory of the spiritual journey, with age-old messages. It’s not just the children (young souls) who grow but all generations of the (human) family face a catalogue of challenges and must develop resilience.
The ongoing morality of The Waltons is to live from the heart, calling on a strong inner core of loving familial relationships. The mainstay of their moral compass is one of listening to, and honouring, their heart-centre.
It is necessary for each programme to be entertaining, so in the course of each hour we witness the various characters facing a range of emotional and physical situations. All manner of disharmony arises, such as fear, criticism and judgemental behaviour, leading to a temporary dysfunction in this usually nurturing and caring family.
In trying to live spiritually, we know that it is necessary for us to encounter challenges as these are milestones for our personal growth, empowering us in forging forward. The essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreaux said, “Things do not change, we change.” This is certainly true of the Walton family and their response to change is enlightening. As one character after another faces a difficult drama, they are supported directly or indirectly by other family members who enable an unmasking of their emotions. Even when, occasionally, a ‘dark night of the soul’ occurs, the suffering character journeys through this, returning to equanimity safe in the knowledge that they have loving support.
A major feature of the storylines is one of being able to face oneself. In doing so, a character receives encouragement in deeply examining their self-talk; and although he or she may initially fight against this, the family’s strong heart-centred behaviours and reflective thinking encourage an awareness of their personal responsibility. Whilst the elders mostly speak words of loving support, when required to they also feel safe to speak words that may hurt, whilst still being voiced compassionately and authentically,
Thus, by delving into and working through deeply-held emotions, the character is able to embrace a newer version of themselves, acknowledge and express their emotions, accept their errors and choose to apologise. In this way they find safety and support, feeling empowered to ‘make good’ as they realise that everyone has value.
Is this not a perfect representation, long before ‘the New Age’
had taken hold, of the highest spiritual ideals
that we all aspire to today as we face our own challenges
alongside those with whom we share our lives?
Yet there is more. Naturally, in the interests of entertainment, many of the dramatic challenges in the programme are faced by the wider community or passing strangers. In these instances, the willingness of the family to offer unconditional support, while severely struggling themselves, further demonstrates their heart-centred behaviour in helping those in need. Such storylines suggest that we are all connected; by supporting others we support all (and, by implication, in hurting others we also hurt ourselves). This family knows from experience what it feels like to swim upstream, so when others are in trouble they often work in unison to assist them; it is not because they are driven by fear of possible consequences if they resist, but by reason of simple emotional intelligence, enabling strangers to elevate their own spirit and conscious behaviours.
We are one. In bringing peace to a stranger,
the peace of the world is increased.
The prescient scriptwriters of The Waltons offer a subtle message to their (perhaps unknowing) audience that transformation begins internally and that we have choices in life. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “In any given moment we have two options: step forward into growth or step back into safety.” Stepping forward can be scary as we can tread an unknown path and courage is needed for us to surrender to our heart-centre in choosing the right options, allowing a new model of ourselves to form.
Goodnight, one and all,
Sandra Bray is the author of Odd Days of Heaven
and Even More Days of Heaven, uplifting ‘guidebooks’
to living a more spiritual life.
The Waltons TV series is often re-run and can be seen in the UK at present on the True Movies channel. Take a look and be nudged into closer alignment with the heart-centre.