Much to my family’s surprise, I’ve become a fan of college sports. Except for soccer. All you soccer moms out there please don’t hate me. I just don’t understand soccer, the time clock counting up and not down throws me off, and good grief, those red, yellow, and green cards confuse the heck out of me. Now getting to back to college sports…
Watching the young players on the field and on the court, the school mascots, the cheerleaders, the bands playing their “fight” song, and the rowdy fans in the stands waving their team colors has me hooked!
This year my fanaticism was ticked up a notch when the University of Arkansas Razorbacks made it to the Elite 8 by beating the #1 seeded team, Gonzaga. Talk about an upset! Their coach, Eric Musselman, was quoted after the game saying, “We believed. You know, nobody else did.” Nevermind that they got eliminated by Duke and never made it to the Final Four, it was still an exciting run!
I just love a good “underdog” story, don’t you? Movies like “Seabiscuit,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Karate Kid,” “Slap Short,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Rudy,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Bad News Bears” and the famous cartoon from my youth, “Underdog” are a few that come to mind. The main characters have a way of pulling at heartstrings and drawing you in as they strive to overcome odds.
I think that most people get excited when the naysayers and critics are proven wrong. It’s not surprising then that they’ve actually set aside a special day for those that win by a “longshot” or “come from behind.” It’s celebrated on the third Friday in November and it’s called National Underdog Day. If you search the National Today website you’ll read that on the day of the event, the usual approach of supporting and cheering the winning team is completely abandoned, and the unacknowledged heroes are celebrated. This is important because we let them know we support them and that we have their backs.
Do people root for the underdog because they can identify and relate to the struggle? Does hearing about an underdog’s comeback story reassure and let them know that they can do hard things too? I’d say yes to both.
Taking Time to Reflect
Now that I’m in a season of empty nesting I’ve been pausing and reflecting a lot. I’ve been asking myself questions like:
- Did I make a difference today?
- Were my thoughts and actions in alignment with what I know is right?
- Am I acting out of selfishness or putting others first?
- Am I becoming predictable and comfortable instead of getting out of my comfort zone?
- Am I missing opportunities to help people?
- Am I seeing a person for who they are on the inside or do I make assumptions and label them?
- Do I give everyone a chance or do I dismiss them as not important?
It’s those last two, the assuming, labeling, and dismissing, that have been pressing on my heart recently. These people are the real underdogs.
Next Level Underdogs
I’ve been challenging myself to take my “rooting for the underdog” thing to the next level. Oh, sure, the Razorbacks, other teams, and movie protagonists are fun to root for, but there are a lot of other underdogs that cross my path every day that need rooting for too. They’re often overlooked and forgotten and need to know I support them and that I have their backs too.
Who might those be? A few that come to my mind are:
The elderly ⚬ Veterans. ⚬ The homeless. ⚬ The handicapped. ⚬ Refugees. ⚬ The bullied. ⚬ The insecure. ￮ The shy. ⚬ The lonely. ⚬ The depressed. ⚬ The mentally ill. ⚬ The anxious. 𐩒 The shamed. ⚬ The sick. ⚬ The suffering. ⚬ The “different.”
What about them? Can I root for them too?
Improving My Vision
I write a lot about changing my lens to get a clearer view of what’s going on around me. If I’m so gung-ho about cheering on a football team the least I could do is to look for the overlooked around me and cheer them on too.
Do I see them? If so, what am I doing to let them know that I have their back?
If you’re like me you probably donate money, food, and clothes to the disadvantaged. You probably pray for them too. All are great things, but are doing these “painless” things just easing my guilt and making me feel momentarily better? Perhaps I’m called to do “harder” things. To step-it-up-a-notch. Sometimes it means pushing myself to broaden my thinking and expand my imagination.
This might look like:
- Making myself available to listen to someone who needs an ear.
- Spending time with someone who is lonely.
- Having conversations with someone “different” than me and then uncovering our commonalities.
- Seeing someone for who they are on the inside and “loving on them” (because everyone deserves love).
- Genuinely getting to know someone and inviting them into your circle of friends.
- Digging for understanding, showing empathy, and picturing myself walking a mile in their shoes
- Expressing genuine care and concern.
Why is it that I (we) tend to see everyone else’s flaws but our own? The truth of the matter is that we’re all prone to make mistakes-we’re perfectly imperfect people after all. There’s no us versus them. No one is “better” (such a subjective word!) than anyone else. Either everybody counts or no one counts.
When I lean on my faith and look to God, I see a perfect example of what cheering for the underdog looks like. Romans 8:31 tells us “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God looks past bank accounts, job titles, awards won, zip codes, and education. We’re all equal to Him.
He stands up for us. He defends us. He’s our Perfect Father. His mercy and grace cover our mistakes. He’s our Provider. He champions us. He cheers for us. And, here’s a mic drop for you…He’s.the.God.of.the.underdogs!
If God is for us shouldn’t we step up, lean in a little, and be more like Him? If God is for us can’t we stand up for, cheer, defend, and champion the underdogs too?
Drop me a line and tell me what you thought of this blog. Did you need this reminder as much as I did? How do you help the “underdogs” in your life? I look forward to “hearing” from you.
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