If you thought you were already happy simply by virtue of coming on holidays to Bermuda, you better believe it can actually get better. Meet Mr Happy Man, aka 92-year-old Johnny Barnes - a seemingly indefatigable one-man band of love who's been spreading his message of goodwill for some 30 years. |
Your holidays to Bermuda will be enriched by a joyful encounter with Mr Happy Man. He loves you…
Good Morning Mr Happy Man
Head down to Crow Lane circle, a traffic roundabout just out of the centre of Hamilton, on any weekday morning, and you'll be greeted by the radiant, smiling face of Johnny Barnes, wishing motorists to "have a good day", "good morning", and "I love you", while throwing his arms wide and blowing kisses to the traffic.
In a routine that hasn't changed in nearly three decades, Johnny rises at 2am to eat his breakfast, then makes his way down to his post to start 'work' from 3.35 a.m. until 10am – sending a little sunshine to the passing motorists on their way to work. As one local puts it: "Hearing Johnny Barnes shout “I love you” encourages you to let go of anger and reminds you that you have a choice in how to start your day."
An Instrument of Love
While all those years ago some people were doubtful of his motivation, expecting him to be asking for money, Johnny's enthusiasm for spreading love to his fellow humans has always come from a very simple place: he just wants to make people happy.
He says he is "just a small instrument in the hand of God to be used any way he sees fit". He gave himself up to that vocation while he was still working as an electrician, on the railway that ran through Hamilton, sitting on a wall in his lunch break and blowing kisses to the passing pedestrians. He continued his mission through his career as a local bus driver and, today, he's become a true local icon – much loved by locals and something of a tourist attraction in his own right, with many people on their holidays to Bermuda going out of their way to meet him.
So entrenched in the local culture is Johnny, that, in 1998, locals set up a charity to raise funds for a statue to immortalise him in bronze, so his spirit will live on even after he physically passes. As one put it: "Johnny will never leave us, because he will live on in the hearts of anybody who's met him." Desmond Fountain's six-foot high statue captures Johnny's pose of all-encompassing love perfectly: arms outspread to gather up the world and blowing kisses to the wind.
Mr Happy Man – The Documentary
In 2011, filmmaker Matt Morris created a poignant 10-minute documentary about Johnny Barnes, which has been shown at prestigious film festivals all over the world. Mr Happy Man reflects on the effect he's had on the locals, and how his encouragement in helping people find joy in the simple act of loving one another has changed their community forever. The message from this articulate, idealistic, gentle man is that life is "sweet and beautiful", and that no matter what happens, it's always good to be alive.
Johnny is modest about his effect on those around him, and insists that "the good lord and I are just trying to make people happy". If that’s his measure of success, then he is definitely the most successful man on the planet.
Johnny Barnes, sweet and beautiful – one little old man making a mighty difference in the world.
John Dixon is Managing Director of Prestige Holidays and visits Bermuda at least twice a year. He has been providing luxury holidays to Bermuda as well as luxury holidays to many other destinations worldwide for over 30 years.
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