In her darkest hour, Janne Willems discovered the power of being able to identify and remember positive moments throughout her day. Now, she travels the world asking others to do the same, and share their moments with her.
While helplessly watching my mother’s health deteriorate, I sank into a state of profound sadness. I discovered that by focusing on finding small, good moments in my day – like being able to laugh, enjoy my mom’s company, and even take moments to enjoy the weather – I was afforded pockets of happiness that reprieved me from my troubles. After my mother passed away, I wanted to share what I’d learned about how paying attention to how the good in our lives can make rough patches better.
I began by asking commuters on Dutch trains to draw me “beautiful moments” from their week. Not only were people cheered up as their moments came to them, but I watched complete strangers start talking to each other (quite a rare sight for commuters!).
Curious if people across the globe would react the same way – and what international beautiful moments might be – I decided to leave home and find out. Thirteen months ago, I left the Netherlands with the goal to collect 1000 beautiful moments per continent.
I’m currently in Alice Springs, Australia. In the past year, more than 2,500 people in 24 countries spread over 3 continents have drawn me one of their beautiful moments.
Regardless of location, I’ve noticed that people’s moods are affected positively after I approach them:
- The Serbian woman who refused my request at first, saying she didn’t have any moments… until she remembered watching her son play football, and thus began to draw.
- The girl in Vietnam who thought she was too shy to approach strangers… and then wound up talking to several as she helped me translate.
- The young man in Sydney who told me he had a miserable week, but when asked, remembered he’d also gotten his Australian citizenship.
Seeing people realize there is something good in their week is the reason I keep asking more people to draw for me.
By traveling the world with this project, I’ve experienced life in other places through art. The drawings demonstrate what makes us each different, and what unites us. Illustrating a compliment only happens in the Netherlands, while many Singaporeans focused on family dinners.
Yet regardless of country and situation, people could still conjure up a beautiful moment.