Counter Culture Home Edition Ep. 3
Elena Anguita, Speaker and Author of “Spread Thanks"; Tim Grill, a Philly-based comic who was born with Spina Bifida; Jos Duncan, a multimedia producer, social entrepreneur and founder of Love Now Media.
-Welcome to "Counter Culture," a talk show normally in a diner.
This is our Home Edition.
On tonight's Home Edition,
I welcome three terrific guests --
the queen of thank-you's, Elena Anguita...
-Not only does it elevate my energy,
but it also elevates the energy of the recipient.
-...the barely-can-stand-up comic, my old buddy Tim Grill...
You and your wife became parents recently.
-He's at the age now where changing his diaper
is a lot like a rodeo cowboy trying to rope a steer.
-...and a documentarian whose theme is love, Jos Duncan.
-When I shifted my lens to the love
and the ways that people were supporting each other,
my fire was lit again.
-All right here on "Counter Culture: The Home Edition."
Hi, folks. Grover Silcox here.
We can't come to you from Daddypops Diner at the moment.
But, hey, we still have our coffee mugs, our coffee,
and a great menu of guests.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
This is probably the best time to welcome my first guest.
She created the Spread Thanks Revolution.
She writes thank-you notes every day
and focuses on all the reasons to be grateful,
and she encourages others to join her.
So please welcome the author of Spread Thanks, Elena Anguita.
-Hey, Grover. Thank you so much
for such a nice introduction.
-Well, you know what?
I'm thankful that you can be on our show
and that we have this technology so that we can make it happen.
-Absolutely. Yes. I'm thankful, as well.
So thank you for the invitation,
and thank you for allowing me
to spread this message of love to your audience.
-Well, I know they're going to appreciate it,
especially at this time.
And so you write a thank-you note to someone
each and every day. Is that true? Why is that?
-I guess I'm a person who believes
that we are all here
to make a difference in the world.
And on that -- against that backdrop,
just take you back to about 5 1/2 years ago
while I was putting laundry away,
a very mundane task.
I was stricken by this, like, surge of --
I call it a whoosh, because it stopped me in my tracks.
And what I saw in my mind, the phrase "A thank-you a day."
And it was so impactful that I felt propelled into the action
of writing a thank-you note
every single day to a real person.
And that simple practice just totally changed every day.
When I was done with my thank-you note,
I would then go about my day in a more grateful,
elevated mood. And what I also notice
every time I wrote a thank-you note,
something special would happen that day,
almost as though my higher energy or positivity
would attract something positive.
And I said, "Boy, I wonder if there's a connection
between this thank-you note and something special happening."
And absolutely, there was.
I really feel the responsibility
to bring it to others.
And that's why I wrote the book and started the movement.
-Do you ever run out of people to thank?
-So, you run out of friends and family,
like, quickly, like the first week or so.
Then you're like, "Okay. who is it going to be now?"
But then that's when the magic begins.
Because when you are on the hunt for a thank-you note recipient,
you actually slow down your mind and you pay attention
to every single conversation you have that day.
And so you look for somebody
who helped make your day a little better.
And it's there. It could be somebody at the grocery store
that helped you put bags in your car.
It could be somebody at work, a colleague that helped you
with a transaction that was difficult.
When you look for it, it's there.
So I kind of cast a wider net, and sure enough,
I started finding a thank-you note recipient every single day.
-Wow. Have you taken people by surprise?
-One day, a few, I would say, months into this practice,
I was really at a loss
for my thank-you note recipient that day.
And I, in my day job, I'm in sales,
and I go to a lot of presentations.
So I was in Pittsburgh at that time,
and I decided -- I was about to go to my meeting.
I say, "Well, I don't know who I'm going to thank."
But I said, "Well, how about the the housekeeper
at the Marriott where I was staying?"
I said, "Well, sure, I'm grateful."
So I wrote a thank-you note.
"Dear housekeeper, thank you so much for all you do.
I travel a great deal with my job.
Thank you so much for cleaning my room
and helping me come back to a clean
and inviting room at the end of my day.
Sincerely, Elena," and I put a couple of dollars
in the envelope with a note.
Well, that evening, I came back to that same hotel room.
And lo and behold, there was a note from the housekeeper
to me that said, "Dear Ms. Anguita --"
so she took the time to look for my name --
"Thank you so much for the appreciation.
It meant so much to me."
And I looked at that note, and I had another whoosh.
I realized that this practice, simple as it is,
not only does it elevate my energy that day,
but it also elevates the energy of the recipient.
And that's when I realized
that this practice is something so special,
because it does have this exponential effect
of lifting people's energy.
That actually is the time I decided to write the book,
because I knew that this -- I couldn't keep this to myself.
I had to share it with the world.
-Right. And I guess
people need a little guidance in this direction,
because maybe folks are timid about doing this.
-Once you get used to this practice
and once you see the joy that it brings in you,
it almost becomes something you must do every day.
I mean, I sometimes write multiple thank-you notes a day.
But I realize that it's a practice
that might appear daunting for those that don't do it.
And I have a workshop that I used to give
to help people through it. And if COVID-19 ever lifts,
I can't wait to do it again. But I actually take people
through the practice of doing it.
So some of the tips that I would give people --
certainly, you know, forgive the shameless plug,
but my book has a lot of how to's
and tips and techniques to do that.
But a simple thing is to keep a list.
Keep a list of people that you would want to thank.
Think about those people around us right now
who are helping maintain normalcy in society,
so the healthcare workers who are working so hard,
people in the grocery stores who are working hard,
delivery people, or maybe people who are out of work
right now in the salons
or people you know that may need that boost of energy.
Keep a list and refer to it.
One of the concerns that people give me in my workshops is,
"My handwriting isn't good enough,"
or "I don't know how to write a thank-you note."
Well, first of all, there's no such thing
as handwriting not being good enough.
There's something very special about hand-writing the note.
First of all, my handwriting, like yours, is unique to me.
So my friends now say when they even see my handwriting
in their posts in their mailbox, they're already buoyed.
You know, they're already excited.
So your handwriting carries your unique energy, if you will.
But it's also a more creative endeavor.
And research tells me this,
that it uses all four quadrants of your brain.
-There's something about handwriting.
Of course, a handwritten note,
you're going to tend to keep it as opposed to delete it.
-It takes a little longer
to draft a personalized thank-you note than a text.
And, therefore, it's that amount of time
where you are actually a little more mindful.
You're thinking about that person
or that gesture that made you happy.
And I think that's the amount of time it takes
for your energy to be lifted.
So I think there's something so simple
but quite magical about this practice.
Don't worry about grammar or making it perfect.
Just allow your note to be sincere,
and that loving message will have its desired effect,
I promise you.
-Once you kind of get on a roll,
I get the feeling that it gets easier and easier.
And the rewards keep coming.
-These are really challenging times.
We all know this. COVID-19 is certainly
something we're doing together as a global society,
but it's unprecedented in our lifetimes.
Everything we knew to be normal is different.
So this practice of writing thank-you notes
allows you to shift your energy to one of gratitude,
because at the same time that this is very negative,
there are many positive things that are happening
at this pandemic time. People are coming together.
People are supporting one another.
From a satellite, the Earth is more beautiful
because we don't have as many emissions.
So there are many positive things that are happening.
So let's focus on those.
-And finally, we'll wrap up by mentioning
your 21 days of gratitude or thankfulness?
-So, I have launched a 21-day gratitude challenge.
You can find it on social media or on my website.
I mean, please join.
And I will step you through this practice over 21 days.
21 days is not a long time.
You can do it. If can do it every day, fantastic.
If you can do it a few times a week, that's great, too.
But just to allow you to shift your energy
from the fear that is coming at us
to a reason to be grateful and help change this experience,
because I do believe whatever you put out there
comes back at you tenfold.
So let's make it loving. Let's make it grateful.
-I think we can leave it right there.
That's a beautiful way to close out.
Good luck with the 21 days.
I think it's a very worthwhile thing
for all of us to invest in at this time.
And people should check out your book, "Spread Thanks."
-Thank you, Grover. It was an absolute pleasure
to be with you and with your audience.
Thank you so much for this chance.
I'm honored and mostly grateful.
-Same here. Elena Anguita, a woman who believes
that the more we give thanks,
the more reasons we have to be thankful.
-I'm in my 40s now. I go food shopping...
I'm calling off the next day, okay?
-My next guest found
that laughter is not only the best medicine,
but making people laugh is like a magic elixir.
-He's a Philly-based comedian. He combines comedy, music,
and hilarious point of view
about his life and life in general.
It's a pleasure to welcome my old pal, comedian Tim Grill!
Tim, how are you? Welcome to "Counter-Culture: Home Edition."
-Thank you. How you doing?
-Why, I'm doing just great. How long have you been a comic?
I know I've known you for at least 15 years.
-I've been a comedian for 22 years now.
Born and raised in Northeast Philly.
I live in New Jersey now, live in Cherry Hill
with my wife and baby boy.
And, but, yeah, born and raised in Philadelphia.
Got my start here.
-We worked together a number of times back in the day.
And I always noticed how quickly the audience liked you.
-I think my style is pretty much
just who I am as a person.
You know, I was told by several comedians
that there's really no difference
between me on-stage and off-stage, you know?
You know, I just I get up there and talk about my life.
I was born with a disability called spina bifida.
I walk with a gait.
So when I go on-stage, people obviously see
that there's something different about me.
So I talk about that in my act.
But then I talk about things about, like, being Irish
and growing up Catholic and going to Catholic school
and now having a -- you know, now being married,
and, you know, having a baby boy.
-Every life event actually gives you more material.
And a lot of the things that we go through as kids,
for a comedian, turns into, you know, material,
turns into stand-up.
That's how I think we deal with it, don't you think?
-That's exactly how we deal with it. Yeah.
That's what got me through --
You know, I've had 13 surgeries.
I was in hospitals for months on end.
I was able to make kids in the hospital laugh
or the nursing staff or whoever,
and I just dealt with it that way.
I didn't really know any other way.
I just, you know -- I always joked about it.
My father got sick when I was 11.
He had cancer. He had a brain tumor.
But my family, we always got through it
with a sense of humor and joking and stuff like that.
-Describe or define spina bifida
for those folks who don't really know
what the condition is about.
-It's when you're born with a hole in your spine.
For me, it was on my lower spine.
So it affected the way I walk. And as I've gotten older,
the pain level can be very severe.
I had to wear braces. I was in a wheelchair
until I was like 3 or 4 years old.
I was -- My mom was told I would never walk ever.
But I can walk, which is great. And I can do a lot of things
that, you know, anybody else can do --
ride a bike and do all that stuff, so...
But it comes with its challenges.
-You even bill yourself as the barely-can-stand-up comedian.
-And the reason I do that is because, you know,
obviously when I come on-stage, I walk with a cane.
It's obvious that there's something wrong with my legs.
So I figure I talk about it up-front,
and then, you know, I move on. But as soon as I talk about it,
I can see the audience, you know, kind of relax.
-You really have to set the tone for the audience
to laugh at your material and laugh at issues
that you bring up in a comedic way.
-You know, that's what we do.
I mean, we talk about the things that are going on in our lives
and, you know, we break it down for people
and, you know, make them laugh about it, you know?
That's what comedy's all about, so...
-Maybe some of your stories
that you relate to your audiences.
-So, I went to public school for four years.
And then right in the middle of the year,
in my fourth year, my parents took me out,
and they placed me into Catholic school.
They called it mainstreaming.
So, and it was culture shock. It was completely diff--
I was the only kid with a disability in my grade school
and my high school. So it was a little tough for me.
I have a joke. I say, you know, my first day
my homeroom nun beat me with a wooden ruler.
So I stood up to her,
and I said, you know, "What makes you think
Jesus would hit a child with a wooden ruler?"
She said, "Because Jesus was a carpenter."
And I said, "Well, thank God he wasn't a plumber."
[ Both laugh ]
-That's a riot. You're a new parent. Right?
You became a father.
You and your wife became parents recently.
-He's at the age now where changing his diaper
is a lot like a rodeo cowboy trying to rope a steer,
you know, because he's just all over the place.
And, you know, there's certain timing that goes with,
you know, putting that diaper on correctly.
-[ Laughs ] Yeah.
So, who have you opened for?
-I used to work at Helium a lot, which was a really great club.
-Helium's one of the big clubs in Philly.
-Yes. And I used to open for some big names down there,
like Todd Glass and Artie Lange. That was fun.
-Of course, Artie is from "The Howard Stern Show."
So that's how people know him.
You're working with fellow comic Jimmy Graham on a TV series
or a spec program.
-Yeah. TV, like, pilot idea.
We did three episodes.
It's called "Cane & Able," and it's a comedy.
It's like a sitcom idea
that we were hoping that someone would like and pick up.
We did three episodes. It's almost like an odd couple.
You know, I'm Cane. You're Able.
We're like adoptive brothers.
And we just were complete opposites.
And the disability plays
you know, a big part in the role,
because I'd like to see -- personally,
I like to see more people with disabilities on TV
and even star, like, in a sitcom or something like that.
There's just not enough.
-Hopefully, the gigs will start coming back
as we emerge from our quarantine,
And people can come and avail themselves of your shows.
-I hope so. I mean, my son's getting tired of my act,
so hopefully we can get some shows.
-Well, I encourage people to go out and see you.
You're terrific. And thanks for joining us
on "Counter-Culture: The Home Edition."
-Thank you so much, Grover, I really appreciate it.
-You're welcome, Tim.
Tim Grill, a guy
whose likable and down-to-earth style of comedy
wins audiences over
from the moment he takes the mic.
My next guest is a public speaker,
documentary filmmaker, and storyteller
who uses her multimedia talents to build empathy
and connections between people
through her company, Love Now Media.
Please welcome Jos Duncan
to "Counter Culture: Home Edition."
Jos, how are you?
-I'm wonderful. Thank you so much for having me, Grover.
-Oh, are you kidding?
A fellow Philadelphian and a Temple graduate at that,
a fellow Owl. -Yes, T.U.
-I'm just amazed by your story
and your company, which is Love Now Media.
Tell the folks a little bit about it
and how you came to forming this organization.
-Love Now Media is an empathy- centered distribution company,
and our goal is to use storytelling to promote wellness
and social justice.
So, how I came to Love Now Media,
I was heavily involved in storytelling
and cultural storytelling for many years,
working as a documentary filmmaker
to really help organizations preserve their cultures
and tell stories that related to their cultural experiences.
And this led me to doing a lot of documentary film work
during the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a filmmaker, I was often at protests documenting people,
you know, pumping their fists, yelling in bullhorns.
I found myself reacting to these protests
in a way that was really causing me to sink
and to not be well and to not feel well.
And, so, there was a protest organized
by a woman named Tarana Burke, who a lot of people know
from her work with the Me Too movement.
She's the founder of the Me Too movement.
She held a rally in Philadelphia.
She lived in Philadelphia at the time.
And it was to advocate for Nigerian girls
who had been kidnapped in Nigeria.
And so, being dutiful, I took my camera
and went out to the protest to document this protest.
And I was exhausted.
And so I decided to shift my lens
from the fists that were pumping in the air
to the hands that were holding each other.
And so there were these interesting images
that attracted me.
And, so, there were people bringing their children,
people hugging, people asking each other what they needed.
And so that drew me to finding and exploring the love
in the middle of these protests.
And it completely changed the direction of my work.
-Wow. And it really does follow that path of Gandhi
and Martin Luther King and all of those people
who followed a path of peace
without stepping back from the mission,
which is to change and to bring equality
to those who have not been treated fairly.
-When I was just operating, you know,
on the same vibration as the protesters,
just kind of with anger,
I found that I was running out of fuel.
But when I shifted my lens to the love
and the ways that people were supporting each other
and that being a reframing of the social justice
and the advocacy,
then my fire was lit again, you know?
And so, yeah, it really helped me to continue in the work,
because I don't know that I would have been able
to continue on, had I not found a new angle.
By doing that through this lens of love,
I'm actually helping everyone involved
to envision, what is it that we're all working for?
And I think love needs to be a part of that formula,
for us to really not lose sight of what it is that we all want.
-And one of your projects was interviewing Philadelphians
about love and about their experiences.
-We had a web series called "Revolutionary Love Stories"...
-We all got a story to tell.
We don't all get a opportunity to tell our story.
-...where we highlighted different Philadelphians
who were doing social justice and wellness work.
There are talk shows where we're talking to therapists,
and a couple that was literally engaged to be married.
So, just talking with all of those folks about love.
-I witnessed an act of love
really helped me come to be who I am.
-Then we were doing something called "Love on Location,"
where we would just go around talking to Philadelphians,
asking them very basic questions --
you know, "How do we learn to love?
When was the last time you witnessed an act of love?"
But one of our signature programs
is "11 Days of Love Stories."
We go to 11 different communities
throughout Philadelphia, and we engage communities
with telling their own love stories.
And it was really fascinating to hear from people
about how they defined love, what kind of made them,
like, not believe in love anymore,
you know, how people's families had set the tone
for how they would be as adults
and how love played a role in that.
-Love sort of takes you back.
Like, "Oh, this is getting personal."
-Yes, it makes people tap into their vulnerabilities.
And so when people are vulnerable,
they reach for safety,
which is often, you know, anger or fear.
So in talking about love and in working to engage people
to create spaces to talk about love,
it's been very important to create spaces
that feel safe for people.
So we do Love Storytelling Workshops for the public,
and as a part of "11 days of Love Stories."
And so when we start those Love Storytelling Workshops,
it's very important for us
to spend a little time getting to know each other,
getting to hear about people's different walks of life.
And we also have publications called "Little Love Stories"
where the first page in the publication
will list out different definitions of love
and just things that make people think about,
when we say love, what do we really mean?
And that tends to break the ice
and make people feel comfortable.
-What kind of responses do you get from folks?
-I would say 90% of the people are full of joy.
You know, they give us positive feedback.
They write letters. And that's really exciting.
Every now and then, I get a person who's just mad
that they think I made them
or our team made them talk about love, you know?
So those are always funny.
And I really appreciate it when I get that,
because I realize that's where I have this opportunity
to really see what some of the tensions are,
what some of the resistance to love really is.
And I get to kind of work that into the program.
Again, I came to this love work through social justice work,
and so I thought it was important
to actually not romanticize love,
but to really shine a light on the actual work
that it takes to achieve love in a community, in a family,
and even with oneself. It's work. It's inner work.
It's being aware of how we're treating ourselves and others.
After the first couple of years, I realized,
"Okay," you know, "let's do some fun romantic stuff."
And so some of the couples that I focused on,
all of those couples are involved
in doing some kind of change or advocacy work,
but they're doing it with romantic love
at the heart of their work.
-I just think what you're doing is just so wonderful,
and to be encouraged, and I wish you all the best,
and keep doing what you're doing.
We need people who are leading the way.
-Oh, great. Well, thank you so much.
And I feel the same about you.
Thank you for creating this space
for so many of us to come
and share, you know, about what we do.
And I'm grateful. I'm happy to be here.
So thank you very much for having me.
-My pleasure. Jos Duncan, a filmmaker and communicator
who uses media to cultivate empathy,
understanding, and love.
Well, that's all for this episode
of "Counter Culture: The Home Edition."
I want to thank my guests,
the author of "Spread Thanks," Elena Anguita,
comedian Tim Grill,
and the founder of Love Now Media, Jos Duncan.
And a special thanks to you folks for joining us tonight.
And don't forget to stop by next Tuesday,
when we'll have more great conversation
right here on "Counter Culture: The Home Edition."