We love underdog stories, sometimes called Cinderella stories. We like to root for the person or team that is not supposed to win. In literature we have the story of underdog Cinderella who despite her wicked stepmother’s best efforts gets to meet the handsome prince. How can you root against someone who rides in a pumpkin golden carriage and wears a glass slipper? Two of the most watched sports movies of all time are “Rudy” and Hoosiers.” “Rudy” is the true story of Rudy Ruettiger who despite many obstacles lives out his dream of playing football for Notre Dame. “Hoosiers” is a fictional account of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship, beating all the big powerhouse teams. If you are a college basketball fan then you know the excitement that surrounds March Madness, and the perennial low ranked team that makes it deep into the tournament. One of the biggest upsets in college football history took place on September 1, 2007 when the little known Appalachian State Mountaineers went into Ann Arbor, Michigan, and upset the mighty Michigan Wolverines 34-32 before 109,208 stunned fans in what is known as The Big House (Michigan’s home football stadium). And who can forget the “Miracle on Ice” when a group of collegiate and amateur hockey players beat the Soviet Union national team 4-3 during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
Have you ever wondered where the word “underdog” came from? Most likely it originated from dog fighting in which the winning dog ended up on top and the losing dog was on the ground, under the winner. So now you have a two-for-one answer; the origin of both “top dog” and “underdog.”
Just as there are underdogs in sports and literature, there are also people in our midst who face considerable odds; we might say the odds are often stacked against them. How about that single mom who is working three jobs to support her kids, the inner-city boy who lives in poverty, the teenage girl who finds herself pregnant, the refugee who barely speaks English, or that elderly neighbor who just seems to be alone all the time. The Bible makes it clear that we are to care for those who cannot always care for themselves; those people who always seem to be underdogs. In Deuteronomy 10:18 we read that “He (the LORD) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Later on the Old Testament we see a similar theme. In Zechariah 7:10 are these words; “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.” In Luke 4:18 Jesus himself tells us that part of His ministry is to proclaim good news to the poor, offer freedom to the prisoners, give sight to the blind, and set the oppressed free. (He is quoting directly from Isaiah 61:1.)
We have all been underdogs at one time or another in our lives. If we are to be like Jesus then we need to actively participate in helping to turn underdogs into top dogs. We encourage you to look at your own life and see where you help those who have been marginalized by society. There are any number of ways in which you can get involved in your own community. Here are just four examples – how about volunteering to give literacy training to people who struggle with reading and writing, sign up to serve a meal on a regular basis at your local soup kitchen, offer to babysit for a single mom so she can take classes to earn her GED, or help your elderly neighbor with lawn care.
In the story of Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother told Cinderella to enjoy the ball but at midnight it would all end, and Cinderella would go back to simply being a servant girl. You can help midnight to never come for someone!