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Some of you may remember an episode from the old Andy Griffith Television show in which the Women's Historical Society discovered that a living descendant of a Revolutionary War hero was living right there in Mayberry. The news generated excitement and curiosity throughout the town as people made plans for recognizing the hero's relative.

Barney Fife, of course, twisted his own family tree to the point that he put himself in line for the honor. The rest of the townspeople felt special just because someone among them was related to a hero.

However, everyone was shocked when the person was finally revealed. A careful analysis of the genealogical records determined that the hero's descendent was none other than Otis Campbell, the town drunk. Despite suggestions to find a "substitute Otis" for the presentation, the real Otis showed up for the ceremony true to form. When the ladies finally give him the plaque, Otis holds it in his hands for a moment and then decides instead to give the plaque to the town.

He tells them, "Just because you're the descendent of a hero doesn't make you one too. So I would like to present this plaque to the town of Mayberry, to which I am just proud to belong."

Well, aren't we all? Aren't we all just happy to belong, to be included! That's what happens to us together in baptism, we all are included with Christ and with one another. It's the gift of relationship, of belonging, of recognizing we are all in this together -- together with Jesus and with one another.

Someone suggested this past week (I believe it was a good idea), that everyone should try to call someone they don't normally talk to. That would be a great way to make others feel included. So, drag out that church directory and give someone a call this week and tell them they are missed.

I hope your New Year is blessed and we all can feel included.



Pastor James "Skip" French is the pastor of Highland Christian Church, 1500 Forest Hills Blvd., Bella Vista. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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