It has become a pleasant little habit to wave back at Johnny Barnes, to toot our horns, to shout “we love you too”. Today this was augmented with “Happy Birthday” and “Thank you, Johnny”. *Photos and montage by Gary Foster Skelton
It has become a pleasant little habit to wave back at Johnny Barnes, to toot our horns, to shout “we love you too”. Today this was augmented with “Happy Birthday” and “Thank you, Johnny”. *Photos and montage by Gary Foster Skelton

Everyone in Bermuda knows Johnny. Everyone knows what he does. Anyone who has stopped for a moment to chat with him knows why he does it.

We have oodles of photos of him waving. We have a statue. The number of companies, events and movements which have stood alongside him to take advantage of his prime advertising spot must number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

What is, however, truly interesting about Johnny is the simple little things he brings out in us, his audience, or his mission field if one looks at it that way.

Habit

It has become a pleasant little habit to wave back at him, to toot our horns, to shout we love you too. Today this was augmented with Happy Birthday and Thank you, Johnny.

Most of us, especially expats or those who did not grow up here and have married in, so to speak, have had a photo taken with him.

Of particular note is our willingness to allow Johnny to pray with us. While some of us would never allow a priest or minister to intercede with the Almighty on our behalf, we will, sometimes awkwardly, yield to this endearing mans simple yet steadfast desire to publicly ask for Gods blessing upon us.

He did so with me and my bride-to-be when she introduced me to him on my first visit to the island eight years ago. He did so with my parents when they came for the wedding six months later. He did so this morning with a group of young people who stopped to wish him a happy birthday.

Unconventional

Sure, hes unconventional. He is obviously eccentric. He can be irritating if youre in such a grumpy mood that you really dont want a dose of the happy in the morning. He has even taken advantage of his unofficial authority and stopped traffic to allow someone to cross the road (as he did with my parents, eliciting a different kind of car horn greeting)!

Yet, whos to say whether or not his dedication to his little ministry has brought us closer to the God he obviously loves. I would like to think it has.

His ministry may not initially take us down the road of deep doctrine. However, in the face of recent clashes between different moral positions with regard to human rights and how they should be defined, and with the so-called tolerance of those on both sides of the debate coming under question, a little reminder that God first loved us is, if nothing else, nice.

Happy 90th Birthday, Johnny. Thank you and God bless you too.


Mr Barnes was also featured in the July issue of Islands Magazine where he was described as 'King of the Wave':