Former WWL-TV news director, editorialist and assistant general manager Phil Johnson, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 80, was an icon among New Orleans television journalists. When the Jesuits who owned WWL said they wanted the station to “stand” for something, Johnson began writing brief daily editorials in 1962 to close out the news report each day. Johnson retired in 1999, but WWL has continued to air his Christmas Eve editorial every year. Johnson was a close friend and benefactor of School Sister of Notre Dame Lillian McCormack, who founded St. Michael’s Special School.
A long time ago, a man named O. Henry wrote a small story, utterly simple, that spoke volumes about happiness and sacrifice and the meaning of love.
We told it last Christmas … in fact, we’ve been telling it every Christmas ever since 1962. We’d like to tell it again this year.
A man and his wife approached Christmas very much in love and very happy because they were together. And just a little sad because they were too poor to buy presents for each other.
They had no children, and only one possession which each prized above any material thing: he, a beautiful gold watch, left him by his father; she, her long, cascading hair.
And it came to be the day before Christmas and they had no presents to give, one to the other. But on his way to work the man knew he could buy his wife a wonderful present. And she, too, during the day of Christmas Eve, thought of a way to buy her husband a fine gift.
That night, the man came home, his gift for his wife tucked under his arm. She, too, had wrapped her present for him. They rushed to embrace – but stopped and just looked at each other. Then, through bittersweet tears, they exchanged gifts.
The man opened his. It was a beautiful gold fob for his watch. But you see, he no longer had a watch. He had sold it to buy her a present – a sparkling gold comb for her beautiful hair. But she couldn’t use it. She had cut her hair and sold it to a wigmaker to buy a present for her husband.
They looked at each other – and their presents – and they smiled. And they knew that – in spite of all – they had indeed given each other the greatest gift – true love. Merry Christmas.