Green Renaissance produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate Grateful Living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Tanja Bjørn Zabell.

Learn more about Green Renaissance through our Grateful Changemaker feature.*

Questions for Reflection

  • What moved you most about Tanja’s story?
  • How might you live life as fully as possible? In the words of Tanja, what do you want out of your life?

We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.

Video Transcript

Instead of the world being so gray, and where people just try to blend in, I like bright colors.

There’s no such thing as ugly colors. All colors are beautiful. It just depends on the eyes that see. Many people would say that it’s horrible to look at me because I’m such a mess of rainbow colors. And just, if I’m in a sad mood, which I often can be because the world is tough, then I just put on bright colors, and I feel pretty, and little by little I can change my mindset. I’ll be more happy instead of just being gray gray gray. And then of course flowers always help.

These glasses have quite a long story. They are like my friendly glasses because always when I’m wearing these, you know, they kind of allow me to go a step further in the meeting with people that I don’t know. Because they kind of start laughing because they think I look a little bit foolish, and I always believe that when you want to meet new people it’s nice to meet them with an open mindset and a little bit of humor. And no lipstick, if you can avoid that.

Everybody deserves to be seen. Everybody’s story counts. And everybody’s story is interesting. Just depends if you know how to listen.

So I make sure every time when I’m with people that I’m really like giving my full attention, and hearing which story they have because the world is also a tough place, and we need to be nicer to each other.

Life definitely isn’t always perfect. I wouldn’t have any depth in my eyes, in my smile if it wasn’t because I also know sorrow. You know, I know sorrow, I know pain. I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people that weren’t ready to go, but their time went up. I lost my mom, that was very hard, a year ago. I wish I could have saved her. I did everything that I could, but I’m not the universe. I would just say that when somebody is passing away, the most important thing is to not be lonely in that situation.

So I will be the number one nurse for my mom. Because when you get chemotherapy and all this, your body gets weak. And then if you do the personal hygiene, and I’m sorry if this is too much to talk about with people, but you know, because she was like, “Oh no,” you know, “you shouldn’t do that, Tanja.” And I was like, “Excuse me, Mama? When I was little, did you clean me up everywhere? Ok, well…why shouldn’t I pay you back now.” And I get like goosebumps because I’m like, I’m so happy for everything in the world, of all these precious moments that were so touching. It’s good you’re in the shower because you cry a lot. But it’s also just like, Mama, I love you more than everything, and I just want this last time to be so pleasant, as possible.

Whenever my doubt is did I do enough for her, she has the voice saying, yes you did, Tanja. I’m not quite sure if I still believe that myself, but I have her voice. She had no regrets, she said to me, and I would like to be the same.

You always believe that when someone’s time is running out then it’s like, did you see and live what you dreamt about? And for me that’s very, it’s a dangerous question. Because do you dare to hear the truth?

Remember to live now, when you can. What do you want out of your life? For me, the most precious thing I have is time. No one knows when one’s life is ending. You have to experience the world. And you have to experience all the gifts that life gives to you. Don’t waste your time. Do whatever makes you happy.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey visit Green Renaissance.


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About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Green Renaissance, works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at greenrenaissance.co.za.