The Gift of Contribution

Livia ChanBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Lead Better, Manage Better, Reflect Better, Self Care Better


  • There are so many ways we can contribute to the communities we find ourselves in.
  • We will dive into these questions: How do you add value by your presence? And how do you add value through your words and actions? How much value do you add and how can you add more? How often do we show we value others’ contributions? 
  • Why is this a gift? We can make all spaces better than when we first entered. Our contribution is the gift we give to our communities. We can make people feel more valued, seen, and heard by the way we positively contribute in order to make a long-lasting impact on learners to continually grow to be contributors to any shared space.

What do you include in your report cards? I recently finished writing mine. One of the things I comment on each term is how students contribute to our classroom community. No two students contribute in exactly the same way but many students contribute in similar ways. 

The Gift of Contribution: How do you add value by your presence?

In the spaces you find yourself in, how do you contribute? But before we can really explore this question, we need to first take a few moments to consider what communities we impact. Perhaps take out a piece of paper to jot them down. This will be your mindfulness practice for today as you take a deep dive into how you offer your gift of contribution. I would write family, friends, school community, online spaces like PLN, and ringette family. 

Next, go through each space to think about whether you add value by being there. It’s most likely a yes. So then HOW do you add value to this community? That is YOUR gift of contribution. The following questions will dive into this to guide you into deeper reflection on the impact you make.

Our contribution is the gift we give to our communities. We can make people feel more valued, seen, and heard by the way we positively contribute. This can have a long-lasting impact on learners to continually grow. Click To Tweet 

The Gift of Contribution: How do you add value through your words?

In the very first post for my Gift Better monthly blog series, Many Gifts to Discover, I share how I see words as gifts. We can give the gift of words by intentionally uplifting others with our words. 

I share this often because this is at the very core of how I see myself adding value and contributing to the communities I am in. Every…single…interaction…is an OPPORTUNITY to INTENTIONALLY uplift others. It is through our kindness and gratitude that we have the power to make their day a brighter one. 

So whether you are in person or in any online space (texting, email, Twitter chat, or social media), how do you greet others? How do you truly listen, respond to offer support, and show kindness? What can you add to express gratitude? How often do you reach out? How can you do better than you already do?

Consider ONE thing you can say to brighten their day! Perhaps it’s as simple as letting them know how happy you are to see them. Or perhaps it’s an opportunity to remind them of how grateful you are to be connected or how they make you feel. Life is short. Take your opportunities to remind others of how much they mean to you. Reach out!

I recognize this takes time and energy but what I’ve discovered is that when I invest this time and energy, I am rewarded with my heart full of joy knowing that I made someone else’s day a little brighter. I’ve spread some kindness into their world and that makes me feel good. It’s one of the best forms of self-care I found. Our gift of words can deepen relationships, one interaction at a time.

Don’t underestimate how your gift of words can be one of the greatest contributions to the communities you belong to. You can make such an impact with your positive words to help them feel seen, valued, and loved.

The Gift of Contribution: How do you add value through your actions?

Add value by doing. Coming back to writing report cards, I consider how students contribute to the classroom community through their actions. Do they help only when asked? Do they only offer their services to help teachers and friends or do they extend beyond and assist others of their own volition? 

This makes me think of one of the questions that Hans Appel talks about in his book Award Winning Culture. In my class, these essential questions are posted at the front of the room the whole year long. I refer to them often.

  • Will you do the right thing?
  • Will you do today’s best? (I changed this one slightly.)
  • What will you do for others today? (service)

So, I want to encourage the habit to go beyond themselves and step up to support others through acts of service. I notice, name, and nurture the leadership qualities I see in the role models we have. 

For example, we begin every morning with flex time. It’s a time when they can ease into their morning by talking or playing with their friends so they can feel happier and be more engaged and alert for the day. When it’s clean-up time, others that don’t have much to clean up go to the areas where they can use an extra hand. They are a role model so when I notice it, I name it so that contributions are nurtured. 

What will you do for others today to make the space you belong to better?

The Gift of Contribution: How much value do you add?

There are varying levels of how much value you add. Think about the contributions you made in the past. How do you add value through your words alone? What if you add actions? Do you help only when asked? Do you look for opportunities to provide assistance? Or do you go beyond and offer? These are different levels of how you give your gift of contribution. 

Reflect on how content you are with your current levels of contribution. Can you be just a little bit better in every community you belong to? Can you contribute a little more often than you usually do? What if you are 1% better at how you communicate with your students and colleagues? And what if you are 1% better in service to others? What effect will it have on us and our communities if we incrementally and intentionally become better role models in every aspect of our lives through our gift of contribution? 

It doesn’t have to be big. Start small. If it’s one person you intentionally uplift through your words, that’s one more interaction you had that you hadn’t taken before. It could be a simple hello you choose to say with more positive energy and a slightly bigger smile than usual to show how happy you are to see them. Flip it around. How do YOU feel when someone greets YOU in that way? It’s a small, simple welcoming gesture you can offer to someone. All it costs you is a little more energy and intentionality but what you receive in return is a warm feeling in your heart that you helped make someone’s day a little brighter. 

The Gift of Contribution: How often do we show value in others’ contributions?

I’d like to think that each person we come into contact with adds value in some way. Whether they add value to their personal friendships or add value by the positive words they share or supportive actions they take, see it as a gift. Once I see things as gifts, my natural instinct is to feel gratitude. I feel strongly that gratitude is meant to be shared so share it! 

Most of us like to be appreciated or at least recognized for what we do. If you notice someone contributing, name it to nurture it. Be specific. In my class, I would say, “Thank you to [name, always important to say their name] for contributing to our classroom community by volunteering to clean up the classroom or help a classmate.” As a Head Teacher, I would use the same language, “I appreciate you for your contribution to organizing the event.” By doing this, people feel valued for your contributions.

Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. 

– Randy Pausch

The Gift of Contribution: Why is this a gift?

“Do you leave a space better off than when you first entered? Do I enter spaces and actually make people feel more valued?” These were two questions that George Couros asked at the beginning of the podcast recording that I had the greatest pleasure to record with him. Listen to the first minute or so to hear how he talks about this and what I equate as the gift of your contribution. 

As I finish writing this post, I dove into George’s work further because I remember him saying something about the contributions we make and something about people being missed for their contributions when they aren’t there. Here’s what I found:

Learners who feel valued in the present are empowered to grow now and in the future.

– George Couros

Imagine a world where every person in a shared space gives their gift of contribution through every interaction…words and actions. We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do. If given with a genuine heart, you have made that space better. I bet you’ll find that you will be blessed with how you feel in your heart in return. Go and give generously. Make an impact on others’ lives by making an imprint on their heart. Make them feel more valued, seen, and heard by the way you positively contribute in that space. And when you do, you leave behind a legacy that may last a lifetime in the leaders you help guide every single day as contributors to any shared space.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. 

– Mother Teresa

[scroll down to keep reading]

Gift Better Challenge

By seeing many more things as gifts, it has changed me for the better. Next month, I will share about the gift of happiness. Until then, here are some ideas for this month’s challenge.

Each month, I love providing challenges to help you Gift Better! Pick one or pick all:

  • Many of us are consumers of content. We learn through watching YouTube videos, reading blog posts or books, or listening to podcast episodes. As John Dewey shared, “We do not learn from experience…we learn by reflection on experience.” Share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences through blogging. Give the gift of contribution by writing a blog post to share the gift of your words through sharing your story. You can contribute to the learning community you so enjoy. Don’t have a platform to share it yet? Contact me at and blog with the Teach Better Team!
  • Create a mind map of the communities you are in. How does what you say add value to that space? How does what you do contribute? What can you do more of or more often to increase your contribution? Practice generosity or just do one more thing than you would have done before. Perhaps start with how you greet others.
  • If it’s been a while since you’ve volunteered, consider finding a cause or a community where you can give your gift of contribution. For the past 13 years, my life has truly been blessed and enriched with friendships as I am so heavily involved in my ringette community as a volunteer coach and member of our executive team. 
  • As you already contribute to the spaces you are in, practice mindfulness. What is the impact you are making on the individuals in the room or in the larger community? Spend some time recognizing how you bring value to these spaces. If you are not being acknowledged for your gift of contribution, you may need to see your own value in your presence there. You are simply recognizing your strengths and gifts. Celebrate your own gift of contribution! “Sometimes the nicest things you will hear in a day are the things you say to yourself.” – Les Brown

If we have not connected yet, I am looking forward to meeting you! Feel free to DM me. Let’s chat! I’d love to hear what resonated with you. Please feel free to fill out this online form to connect. Thank you for your time!

With a heart full of gratitude, Liv

About Livia Chan

Livia Chan is a Head Teacher and author passionate about building relationships, teaching, leading, and daily learning. Her other passions include family, friends, and the sport of ringette. She lives by the belief that in every interaction we have the opportunity to intentionally uplift others through our kindness and gratitude to help make their day a brighter one.

For over 20 years, Livia has continued to experience the joy of teaching in the Greater Vancouver area in BC, Canada and loves her role as a Head Teacher and classroom teacher. She previously served on the District Staff Development Team in Learning Technologies supporting K-12 educators. Currently, Livia is honored to be the Digital Content Coordinator and Ambassador for the Teach Better Team and loves being a part of this family! Her motto is “Working together to better ourselves, each other, and the world around us.”