Chapecoense.

It's officially "the Holidays". How do you feel? How are you doing?

I feel like the holidays are a time to be faithful, but sometimes I feel so, so far away from faith.

When I say "faith", I am not referring to the religious type, specifically. The definition of "faith" is a "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". Faithfulness then, is standing behind a belief - any belief - that seems totally irrational at times but, nevertheless, is a belief that you hold to be true. For instance, the belief that the best candidate will win an election. 

The 2016 presidential election was one of the most jarring tests of our nation's faithfulness to democracy and to our fellow Americans was the 2016 presidential election. This test is not over. As wounds heal, we are all being forced to reckon with what it means to be an American while hurdling full-throttle into four years of Trump. It's a hard time to be faithful rather than desperate.

I think Kate Mckinnon portrayed this feeling best as she sang "Hallelujah" following the blow of Hillary Clinton's concession and Leonard Cohen's death. Normally, I laugh at everything McKinnon does on screen. Often, McKinnon laughs at herself on screen. This was not so at the piano. I felt like my heart my break as her heart did break. You could literally feel that she was clinging to the very last bit of her faith. 

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In the last few days, after nearly one month in the dark; in the "back at square one", America has turned outward as Brazil and her neighbors mourn. Unlike our national pride, Brazil is mourning that which cannot be regained: life. On Saturday, November 28, a plane crashed into a hill in Medellin, Colombia. killing at least 71 people. Twenty-two members of the Chapecoense, a Brazilian football team, were on the flight, traveling to play in the the Copa Sudamericana. According to BBC News,

On the way to what would have been one of the biggest games in their history, the team - and journalists travelling with them - had shared pictures and video on social media, describing the journey as ‘the flight to history’

Indeed, in watching the clips filmed before the flight, I felt as though I was watching the beginning of a pilgrimage. Their excitement was so palpable that it seemed almost religious. That may have been because, as Gotham Chopra said,

In a lot of ways, sports do resemble the structure of religion and other communal activities. For fans, they lend a rhythm to the calendar year; they provide a space for meeting and socializing with people who have common interests; and they offer shared experiences of excitement and disappointment and hopefulness.

I would add that, similar to religion, sports draw out faith. In both American football and true football, great players and great games have the ability to restore our faith in humanity, to restore our faith in miracles, to restore our faith in the divine. In a time where it is seems easier to forgo faith than to defend it, sometimes sports stadiums, sports bars, sports teams, or sports fans are all one needs to feel revived. 

Maybe all of this sounds like mumbo jumbo and maybe it is, but I will tell you this: in the same way that watching Kate Mckinnon belt out "Hallelujah" on SNL broke my heart a little, watching Tito Beltran pay homage to the Chapecoense in singing "Ave Maria" made my heart feel full.

Could you feel the faith in Beltran's voice? Could you see the faith of the fans in the stand that a new, more hopeful day is coming? Could you see their faith in their fellow fans to show understanding and solidarity and compassion?

The loss of the Chapecoense players and of the other passengers on Flight 2933 will be a loss that is felt forever by those who knew and loved them. Faith will not come quickly and it will not come easily, but I have proof that having faith in the midst of a nation's darkest days is possible. My proof is Nivaldo: a goalkeeper for the Chapecoense.

Nivaldo lived through the plane crash that killed so many of his teammates because he never got on the plane. In speaking to reporters on Wednesday, after the crash, Nivaldo, "...struggled to find the words to pay tribute to his fallen friends. He would play no longer, he said. Not without his brothers, not without those who lost". Nivaldo's hauntedness and his sadness were plain to see, but though he struggled, he was eventually able to say, "Everything has a reason in life". That's a lot of faith. Maybe it's faith in God, maybe it's faith in the universe, maybe it's faith in his own intellect, it really doesn't matter. No matter where his faith lies, Nivaldo has the kind of faith that makes a dark world feel hopeful. It's the kind of faith I like to imagine in Cohen as he sings,

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Elise Matson