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We Rise By Lifting Others

Terry Lieb Coping with Adversity, God Finds, Healing Relationships 7 Comments

I was driving north on Route 61 and just before the Schuylkill River, a billboard on my right caught my eye. “We Rise By Lifting Others.”

I did a double-take. Had I actually read that correctly? I had to turn around to check, and sure enough, there it was—in huge letters! With so many negative messages showing up on everything from toxic cell phone and social media memes to aggressive front-yard signs and snarky bumper stickers, it was certainly a much-appreciated change of pace.

Appropriate, too! I was actually on my way to the Landingville Fire House to conduct a live auction as a fundraiser for a friend who had been paralyzed after falling off his roof last autumn. It has been an enormous challenge, but he has been fighting valiantly to regain as much strength and mobility as he can.

BidderI trusted the auction would help “lift up” my friend in a variety of ways. Not only would he and his wife feel emotionally buoyed by the love and support gathered around them, but most of the funds being raised would go to purchasing the equipment he needs to support him in this challenge to physically “rise up” again.

And, from my past experience at events like this, I knew they wouldn’t be the only ones who would likely be uplifted. As the sign said, I was sure that those doing the lifting would leave with their spirits raised, too. It always feels good to help others.

Still, as much as I was on board with the billboard’s message, the words kept going round and round in my head, almost obsessively. More specifically this one word, “rise,” kept “rising” up! I felt there was a certain energy building. I couldn’t explain nor fully understand it, but I had the sense it had potential to be helpful, hopeful, healing, life-giving, and transformational.

When I arrived at the auction, I scanned the crowd. Although I knew less than half the people there, I recognized there were people all along the political and religious spectrums represented. What an interesting mix of folks! It felt good to get away from the self-selecting silos we tend to find more and more these days.

I took my place at the front of the room and welcomed everyone to the event. Then I blurted out without even thinking, “I am glad to be here today for two reasons: one, I want to help support these two folks on their journey toward healing and two, I get to spend the afternoon in the company of a diverse group of folks with different political views and from different religions perspectives who aren’t attacking each other and arguing who is right but rather coming together with one generous and caring focus.”

It was quiet for a few seconds—what I think they call “deafening silence”—and I began to second-guess my words. Why on earth had I said that? I’d just made things incredibly awkward! Worse, had calling attention to the division I see breaking the country apart—something I increasingly see as the greatest danger we face today merely put more energy toward the very thing I wanted to overcome? See related article — Healing Relationships Across the Divide.

Then, from somewhere in the room, there came a smattering of applause. Suddenly it seemed everyone was smiling and clapping! A spirit swept through the crowd I had never felt before. I don’t know about anyone else, but even though we didn’t bring up the deep discord in the country again, for a few hours I felt like we were actively, enthusiastically transcending our differences and coming together as one people again. I was filled with more hope than I had been in a long time.

After the auction was over, a few folks came up to thank me. Their take on the afternoon was a little different. An older gentleman who bought several items described it simply as “fun.” He said, “Pre-Covid, we spent thirty dollars apiece at a fund-raising event for a non-profit agency to listen to a professional stand-up comic from New York. You had me laughing ten times more simply ad-libbing and bantering with the audience, without the raunchy jokes!”

That gentleman had no way of knowing that I have always dreamt of adding yet another career to my portfolio: stand-up comic! Depending on how long it takes and how old I am, I would be willing to settle for a “sit-down comic,” assuming someone could bring the chair out on the stage for me! Maybe I should do more to pursue that dream, I thought.

After the auction, I was still on a high from the experience and I wanted to wring every last ounce of meaning from it. As a long-time quote addict, one thing I’ve come to realize is that digging into some of the prominent words in a quote can open up whole new insights—and sometimes completely upend my understanding of the entire thing!

I used to go to Webster, but these days I consult my faithful assistant, Siri—she is amazing and much faster! I queried Siri about that word, “rise,” still bouncing around in my gray matter, and here are just a few of the definitions I got:

Hey Siri-to succeed in not being limited or constrained by a restrictive environment or situation;

-to be restored to life;

-to become higher, ascend;

-to find the strength or ability to respond adequately to a challenging situation;

-to become more cheerful, heartened, or elated

Those few examples not only blew open my previous definition of that single word but gave me so much more fertile ground for growth and learning from the whole quote! I reflected on the message again but this time with a more informed perspective.

As I examined the quote anew, I opened my mind to a more expansive understanding of the entire experience. I had started with a very rigidly-defined view of how we might “rise”: the good feeling you get from making a small difference in another person’s life. But what if it was more than that? What if there was some greater energy created when we came together in a spirit of loving kindness that moved us in ways we didn’t even realize?

Could this life-affirming energy have somehow inspired me to speak out—however briefly—about the division in our country that worries me on a daily basis? For a few hours that afternoon, I felt we were “rising above” the judgment, hate, name-calling, and extreme division in this great nation. It certainly caused me to become “heartened” and more hopeful that we can come together despite our differences.

Is it possible that same energy moved that gentleman to come up to me afterward with his flattering comments about my comic potential? His words en-“couraged” me to have faith in myself and strengthened my resolve to tackle this tempting, but daunting dream of mine. That sixty-second feedback breathed new life into my next career dream and, again, caused my hope meter to “rise” just a little!

What other subtle or not-so-subtle shifts and connections were happening in the crowd that afternoon? Could this energy or spirit, even without our knowledge, have affected everyone present and lifted all of us up in ways we might not fully realize or understand?

Photo by Austin Chan on

Is it possible that lifting others—loving others—unleashes our transformational potential and causes us to “rise” beyond just feeling good for doing good? Can it somehow propel us to a higher state? Free us from limitations? Strengthen us against adversity? Hearten us and fill us with cheer? Even restore us to life?

“We Rise By Lifting Others.”

What a profound message! All I could do was open myself to it, let it lift me, and hopefully allow it to transform my life journey in some way.

I can’t help but see God’s hand in the whole experience. This Sneaky God I am celebrating and getting to know better all the time surely appears to be showing up on a more regular basis. Or maybe I’m just getting better at recognizing God’s presence these days? If you’re looking for them, you can see signs everywhere—like Route 61 by the Schuylkill River!



  • How have you experienced the truth of “we rise by lifting others” in your own life?
  • Do you believe there can be an energy or spirit created amongst people that can transform them in ways they don’t even realize? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever been in a group with a special spirit to it? Do you know what prompted it? How did it affect you?
  • Are you currently seeking opportunities to come together with people of different beliefs and viewpoints? Why or why not? What benefits in that do you think are possible?
  • What under-utilized talent(s) do you have that you could use to help others which might simultaneously satisfy something unfulfilled in yourself? How could you take steps toward making this happen?
  • Have you ever had a word or phrase jump out at you or get stuck in your head? When this happens, do you explore it and/or consider it might be a “nudge” from God?
  • Have you seen “signs” from God? If so, what were some and how did you recognize them? If not, why do you think that is? What would one need to look like for you to recognize it?


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August 5, 2022 2:54 pm

Lovely, inspirational, and uplifting! Thanks Terry for giving me much to ponder and for realizing there is more power in “yes, and…” rather than “yes, but…”! We can all do our part by putting aside dualistic thinking. The whole body is beautiful together❤️

Nancy Robertson
Nancy Robertson
August 5, 2022 8:16 pm

Thanks, Terry! Love how you can, first, recognize a powerful quote, then apply it immediately to what you are doing; and with additional reflection, reap more than you thought possible. Our “sneaky God” certainly is present, raising you up and many of those with whom you interact, including me.:-) Praise His Name!

August 6, 2022 4:58 pm

As a lay-person in my local church, I am very aware of how the last 2-1/2 years has adversely affected our Sunday worship attendance and general volunteerism. Your message has encouraged me to think deeper in how I might encourage others to reach out with the right chosen words to bring us together again in support of all our members and our common purpose. “We rise by lifting others.”.  

August 6, 2022 9:53 pm

I will occasionally share the phrase–I do not recall if I made it up or I heard it from someone else, but it is mine now–“The best way to lift yourself up, is to stretch your hand out.” Sounds like a first cousin to “We rise by lifting others.”

Deborah Graf
Deborah Graf
August 15, 2022 3:03 pm

I’d come to your sit-down comic show! Thanks for your wise reflections.

David Kuntz
David Kuntz
August 22, 2022 12:34 pm

Thanks Terry. I often find myself categorizing groups of people and then rejecting them or accepting them based on certain characteristics that I liklike theme or don’t like. I’ve found that once I get to know the individuals I actually find a lot in common. I know that I have a talent for inspiring others. Maybe I am not using that enough to inspire those I disagree with or find different than me,

September 3, 2022 6:04 pm

the word God to me is overused, distorted, mangled, not adequate
to hold my sense of spirituality–higher power works better for me.
Sneaky God doesn’t work for me……words matter and I’m not connecting.