Boy, doesn't it feel like it's been minus two degrees for years?
This has been a lovely, mild winter, but somehow the lack of variance makes it seem so much longer.
I don't know about you, but lately I've been feeling a bit glum.
My daydreams feature dazzling performances by sandy beaches, fruity cocktails with a jaunty pink umbrella, and colourful summer frocks.
I fantasize about painting our front door yellow (although I'm not brave enough to follow through).
Every time I leave the house I dread having to put on a coat and boots. It's not the hassle that gets me down: it's wistfully remembering summer when I could put the garbage out in bare feet if I so chose.
I'm regretting that I never got around to planting bulbs in fall; anticipating their early blooms would really lift my spirits.
Medical research shows that feeling glum in winter is an actual thing. It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder and it's caused by a lack of serotinin, the hormone produced by the sun. Serotinin gives us a happy, calming feeling; without it, we're prone to feelings of depression, fatigue, carbohydrate craving and - go figure - weight gain.
This is not proved by medical research, but I have a hunch that the winter blues start in November, then are alleviated by the holidays. Then comes January, when we pledge to lose those winter pounds, and by, oh, about February 20, we're realising it's not as easy as we'd hoped, and bemoaning the weather that prohibits us from getting out and active.
So I had an idea to cheer us all up.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of "pay it forward": when one person does a good deed for another random person, who in turn does a good deed for someone else, and so on until warm fuzzies are flying all over the place.
The concept first arose way back in 317 BC in Greece (which, incidentally, really needs cheering up itself right about now) by playwright Menander in a work called Dyskolos.
It was reinvented in 1784 by none other than U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
A troubled man named Benjamin Webb wrote to Franklin about some tale of sorrow, lost to us now. Franklin wrote back and enclosed 10 gold coins.
"I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you," Franklin wrote.
"When you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity."
The mysterious Mr. Webb must have done exactly that because the idea has grown roots and spread ever since. Imagine if that one chain of good deeds is still continuing, more than 300 years later.
Now, several countries celebrate a Pay It Forward Day, and the Pay It Forward Foundation estimates that there will be three million random acts of kindness performed around the world this year.
Wouldn't it be wonderful, and pull us out of the winter doldrums, if the pay it forward movement started flying around Cranbrook?
Imagine if you went to put coins in the parking meter, and noticed it was paid out for an hour.
Or imagine if you went to buy some eggs, and someone had pulled all of the cartons with broken eggs out so every carton you picked up was pristine.
Or if an anonymous friend sent a bunch of flowers to your workplace.
Or think how cheery it would be to see a happy message or picture chalked on the pavement in a park.
To get the ball rolling, I'm going to metaphorically mail out the first 10 gold coins on Monday, February 20. I won't say how, but the deal is this: if you are the recipient of a random act of kindness, and if you are able to, please repay the kindness to someone else.
It doesn't have to be costly; if you put your mind to it, you could think of a kind gesture that doesn't cost a cent.
There are millions of possibilities, and I think we'll find that the giving feels just as nice as the receiving.
Come on, Cranbrook, let's cheer each other up.