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In Memoriam: Johnny Barnes – A Bermudian Insurgent

Johnny Barnes greets people from the Crow Lane Round About in Bermuda.
Johnny Barnes greets people from the Crow Lane Round About in Bermuda.

I learned this morning from a reader that Johnny Barnes passed away this year, at the age of 93 (see the first reply beneath the post).  I was so inspired when I first heard about Mr. Barnes, that I thought I’d repost this particular blog entry from over a year ago.  Here it is.


When the railroads shut down on the island of Bermuda, it forced an electrician by the name of Johnny Barnes to find work as a bus driver. As a bus driver, Johnny came face to face – quite literally – with surly people. Johnny was – and still is – a very cheerful sort of person, so he rarely let the less cheerful sort bother him much. Instead, he decided to make a special effort to be even more cheerful with people who get on his bus.

That’s when a realization developed: cheering people up would be his life’s work, so at the age of 60, he quit bus driving. Instead, he started getting up at around 2:30 every morning so he could be at the Crow Lane Round About in Bermuda by 3:45. Then, as commuters made their way into the city from their homes, he’d wave and yell greetings. “Good morning!” “God bless you!” “I love you!” Of course, at first people were a bit startled. Some thought he’d lost a portion of his mind. After a period of time, however, he became a fixture.

Now, people wave back. Most feel that their commute would be incomplete without seeing Johnny. They actually have come to anticipate gladly seeing Johnny as they drive by that spot. The vast majority feel uplifted. In fact, one day when Johnny wasn’t at the round about because he’d needed to go to the hospital, it caused a stir. Some people even went so far as to stop, park their cars, and walk over to embrace Johnny. Others sought advice. And after about 25 years of this, a group of citizens commissioned a local sculptor to fashion a statue of Johnny – which he did, and which has been erected in a small green sward not far from the Crow Lane Round About.  An independent film maker even made a documentary about Johnny entitled, “Mr. Happy Man.”  You can view the film by clicking on the link below.

People can't stand the thought of not having Johnny Barnes around.
People can’t stand the thought of not having Johnny Barnes around.

No one ordered Johnny to conduct his independent campaign of blessing. He’s a sort of happiness insurgent. He made the personal decision to do his part to convey blessing to other people, however small the effort may have seemed – and even a bit nutty.

I think of our own individual lives like that. When we decide to be blessings in whatever way we can, and just do it – over time it can make a huge difference. I don’t expect that anyone will ever make a statue of me, but then, that’s not why Johnny Barnes decided to be a blessing. He just wanted to do his part to make the world a cheerier place.

And the statue? The blessing we leave for others will form a monument in their hearts – and that’s the most enduring statue of all.

2 replies on “In Memoriam: Johnny Barnes – A Bermudian Insurgent”

I’m sad to hear that Johnny passed away, Gerri. Thank you for letting me know. I’m going to repost this blog entry so that my little audience knows about it. Blessings on you!


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