It’s About Johnny!
By Bonnie Saul Wilks
This is one of those stories that helped me grow-up, although I was an adult when I heard it. The famous queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey, tells a tale about the first time she appeared on the Johnny Carson show. Just like a myriad of would-be stars, Oprah would have her “three minutes of fame” on the celebrated “Tonight Show.” Everyone knew what this meant—Oprah had made it!
As a young person, you may be scratching your head and wondering, “Hey, who in the world is Johnny Carson?” Well, he was a talented, late-night show host and, for his time, seriously funny. He was the Jimmy Fallon of his generation. Americans loved Johnny. Many stars received a super-boost in the business by appearing on-air with him.
The truth is Oprah had only begun climbing her way to the top when she hit the “Tonight Show.” Since then, her fame and popularity have exploded with unprecedented success. Most stars or high-profile people crave a nod or an endorsement from the powerful Oprah. Political persons or presidential hopefuls desire her official stamp-of-approval.
So Johnny asked Oprah a few questions, and then it came time for a commercial. During the break, the personable Oprah tried to engage Johnny in friendly conversation, but he did not respond. Carson spoke not a word, nor did he give her a nod. The experienced show-biz man was “off-air” and disconnected from developing a friendship or even a conversation.
Suddenly a floodlight of understanding illumined the situation. Oprah thought, “Oh, this is about Johnny.” Yes, it was about Johnny -— not Oprah. It was Carson’s night and show. Oprah was just invited to ride the Ferris wheel to the top with the late-night host and then swoop down to the ground of reality a few minutes later. Tomorrow night Johnny would load it up again with stars and would-be stars for a quick ride to the top and back down. The Ferris wheel and the ride belonged to the star of the “Tonight Show.”
Oprah admits this was a life-lesson she never forgot. It is clear that her most endearing quality is the undeniable truth that she knows how to let others shine. Miss Winfrey has discovered she looks best when she graciously allows those around her to illuminate the center stage. Oprah knows how to move aside and let others be important.
I have added this lesson to my life-bank of wisdom. It sweetens my contentment, and it’s something I want to put into practice in earnest in this new year. Allowing others to shine brings about the kingdom of God in my life and others. I have not conquered the gift in every instance, but I aspire to be intentional about allowing others to beam in the limelight and encourage their shining.
Yeshua loved people and became involved in their stories. I imagine Him as the best listener when He spent time with the lame man by the pool, or Matthew, or Mary Magdalene, or the ten lepers on the road. Jesus listened, and probably thought to Himself, “This moment is about Mary, this hour belongs to Peter, or this time is for John.”
The Master emptied His ego and shared the joys and pains of both friends and foes, yet He was flesh and blood. I think sometimes He probably wanted to shake the disciples and say, “Hey, get over yourselves! I am the One. It’s about Me.” As both man and God, He alone carried the sin of the whole world up Calvary’s mountain. Truly, it was about Him and no one else.
The stardom of Johnny Carson has long faded, and everyone is gazing at Jimmy Fallon and other superstars. In recent months even Oprah’s shining star has dimmed. The spotlight that I surrender to others leads me to a life more like Yeshua. His glory will outshine the hottest-burning sun in the galaxy and the haughtiest-flaming celebrity known to humankind.