Hating Hilmar at 20:11

What I'm Doing at 20:11 in 2011... Our little town has suffered through some tragedies lately, including the loss of Hilmar High School coach, Franky Silveira at the age of 25 years old. Tonight at 8:11, we were celebrating him... on the football field with many, many of his dearest friends.

That's the thing about a guy like Franky... everyone thought they had a special relationship with him. Special and unique because Franky made everyone feel that way.

As I was in awe watching this memorial unfold, I was reminded of my own relationship with this young man... and it came to me. He's the reason I stopped hating Hilmar.

If you've known me for a while, you know that I used to not care for what is now my hometown. Hilmar was a primary rival of the high school my children attended. (Central Catholic) And, since we had family here, the rivalry grew far beyond the boundaries of the field, court, mat, or diamond. It was safe to say that we hated Hilmar. And believe me... the feeling was mutual. They didn't like us either. There were rude comments on both sides of the aisle.

One day at a wresting tournament, there was this big guy from Hilmar talking to Steel... he seemed nice, but no-one in Hilmar was ever nice to a Central kid... (at least, that's the way we saw it.) When he walked away he smiled and I (of course) interpreted it as a sarcastic smile. I immediately went to Steel to find out what the guy had said. Steel assured me he was just being nice. When I mentioned the conversation to Leroy, he said, "Oh, that's Franky Silveira... He's a really nice guy." (I didn't know Hilmar had any Nice Guys.")

So I gave Franky a chance. When he smiled at me the next time... I smiled back and said hello. Then the next couple of tournaments came and went, and he always had a kind word for us, a friendly smile and a congratulatory statement... Always kind, always positive and always sincere.

I don't know how or when it happened, but it turned from polite smiles between opponents to big bear hugs every time we saw this guy. He never failed to walk across the field or gym to say hello whenever or where ever our paths would cross.

I became to see him as Hilmar's Goodwill Ambassador. He was the reason I gave this town a second chance... and a second look.

So tonight, I say thank you to Franky. Thank you for teaching me a lesson with a kind and gentle spirit. You touched so many lives with your kindness and you leave Hilmar a better place because you were here. Because of you, I opened my mind to imagine the impossible. You reached so many people in your short 25 years. We are all better off having known you. You truly are our (my) Home Town Hero.