Can you imagine a suburban summer Saturday without the whine and growl of lawn care machinery? Maybe you can if you live on a farm, in a downtown condo, or in a wealthy neighbourhood where hired crews create that din Monday through Friday instead.
But for many of us, Saturday is a time when neighbours wedded to unsustainable landscapes give them the noisy attention they need.
A wedding brought all that to a halt in my neighbourhood last Saturday - without even a hint of a suggestion from the happy couple's families.
Because you care. . .
Instead, everyone in the area received a note from the bride's parents about a week before the event. The message began with a paragraph of thanks to all of us for making the district such a wonderful place to live and raise their children.
"What better place for our daughter's wedding," they asked, "than her family home, in the neighbourhood where caring, generous people gave her memories of a wonderful childhood?"
. . . We care
The parents continued with a timetable "to allay any concerns you might have about unusual activity levels this week." They told us when the tent and furniture would arrive and when it would all be set up. They told us the time and date of the rehearsal. Finally, they described the wedding schedule, from the expected arrival of guests (and in roughly how many cars), right through to the reception, dinner, dancing and final farewells.
They closed with the sincere hope that none of this would inconvenience us. They invited us to speak to them about any concerns and reiterated their deep appreciation for the chance to bring up the bride in such a wonderful area.
At no time did they even hint that we might modify our schedules and chores to make the event pleasanter for their guests.
Yet we did. We all did. Without consultation, people for blocks around left their mowers, blowers and weed whackers in the garage that Saturday: dozens of individual, appreciative responses to that family's gratitude and joy.
The impact of "Thank you!"
Gratitude is such a powerful human sentiment that it blesses others and moves them to act even when no act is suggested. It builds a human connection that immediately pulls the receiver of your gratitude closer to you.
That's what happens when you thank donors and put them at the centre of your communication.
Yes, there are many times when you'll want to describe the need, the crisis that still remains in spite of their gifts and your work. Yes, there are many times when you'll want to ask for another gift, suggest monthly giving or encourage legacies.
But sometimes, a heartfelt, specific "thanks" for the impact they've already made is exactly the right step.
When will you say "thank you for ..." - and sign off?