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A Bygone Era of American Civility

Recently as I was flipping through the channels I stumbled upon an episode of "Little House on The Prairie" on the Hallmark Channel. Yes I am guilty. I am a sucker for this show and whenever I get the chance to I usually watch it my wife. There is something so innocent, so decent about this show. Each time I finish watching an episode I feel uplifted and inspired to build a cabin somewhere.  To make matters even worse since the show was on the Hallmark channel I had to endure the countless commercials of sappy love movies which all pretty much had the same plot that goes something like this:  A wealthy, but unhappy person meets the person of their dreams by chance on an elevator or another inconsequential location such as a toilet, a library, a ski lodge or an abandoned pet shelter.  At first they are both reluctant, but then they fall madly love with each other, survive some obstacles and live happily ever after just like a perfect Hallmark card.  Despite the inherent cheesiness of this experience there was something valuable that I learned from this Little House on The Prairie episode.

The episode was titled, Blind Justice and it chronicled the trial of Edgar Mills who was an unscrupulous business man who conned the humble village of Walnut Grove.   In the beginning of the episode Mills comes to the village announcing that he had a great investment opportunity on a railroad property.  In order to buy the property he convinces many of the villagers to contribute to his scheme guaranteeing a sizable return on their investment. However, it is soon discovered that Mills had deceived the entire village since there was no property to speak of.  Once the town discovers this they want him to be prosecuted to the fullest extent in court. 

Caught in the middle of this is Adam, Charles Ingall's son in law who is just beginning a law practice in the village.  Adam is approached by Edgar Mills to be his lawyer.  At first Adam refuses, but soon after he reconsiders and decides to take the case.  In the trial Mills is found guilty.  But in a surprise twist Mills' wife and personal physician testify that he has a severe illness and is near death. So in order to make some quick money for his wife and three children he devised the fraudulent land scheme.

In the end the judge lessens Mills' sentence and orders him instead to spend his remaining days with his wife and children.  All the money that Mill's wife still had would be returned to the village.  In an unprecedented move of unbridled charity the entire village of Walnut Grove decides to help Mills' family offering them free housing and unlimited health care.  To watch the dramatic final court scene click here.

This episode taught me three valuable lessons:  1) True Justice was served.  Instead of just blindly sentencing the accused Edgar Mills to the maximum sentence the judge took the entire situation into context.  Acting in a Christlike manner the judge condemned the act, not the sinner. 2) Forgiveness. Despite swindling the entire village the village decided to forgive him instead. 3) Charity.Unlike in today's world, the village of Walnut Grove did not simply recommend him to counseling or to some federal assistance program.  Instead the village took on the burden of helping him and his family out directly.  This last act is the essence of true Christian charity.

It is my prayer that our country returns soon to to this bygone era of civility and decency. Until then I will keep watching  "Little House on The Prairie" reruns.


  1. I love Little House on the Prairie! I think I even remember that particular episode. Yes, it would be a wonderful thing if our country would return to those innocent days of old. I will join you in that prayer.


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