SUMMER is coughing out its last humid gasp and we'll soon be embroiled in dumb debates over how badly the Eagles will disappoint us this year.

But first, let us ponder lessons from the Philly summer of 2014.

What did we learn, people?

1. Amateur athletes can be more satisfying to watch than professional ones.

In their thrilling August quest for a Little League World Series championship, the Taney Dragons showed more zeal, compassion and grace than the millionaire-clogged teams who annually break our hearts for a living. Thank you, kids, for reminding us what pure love of the game looks like.

2. People are often far more than they seem.

Everyone knew that Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Daily News, was a rich man whose big-time philanthropy was well-documented. What many of us didn't know, until stories came out after his death in a plane crash May 31, was how he shared his good fortune away from the limelight - quietly, kindly, without fanfare - with those who desperately needed it. Thank you, Lew, for defining the word "mensch."

3. The pope's "yes" should always trump a "maybe."

On Aug. 18, Pope Francis said at a news conference that he wanted to attend Philly's World Meeting of Families, scheduled for next September. The week before, when asked if he'd visit here, the Spanish-speaking pontiff answered "Si!" Not necessarily, said Vatican press flacks, whose position remains that "no concrete plans" have been made for their boss to eat a cheesesteak with us. Thank you, Your Holiness, for refusing to be as coy as your handlers want you to be.

4. Police and neighbors can work together.

When carjackers slammed an SUV into a North Philly street corner on July 25, killing three children and their mother, members of the community rallied with tips that helped detectives swiftly identify the suspects. The neighbors' effort was the antithesis of the "no-snitching" ethos that allows monsters to destroy the city. Thank you, citizens, for stepping up.

5. We don't need a "grand plan" to transform the Delaware River waterfront.

Instead, the transformation can happen in intriguing bits and pieces, as evidenced by the ingenious reinvention of the river's old piers into peninsula parks that are an antidote to formulaic waterfront developments in other cities. This summer, Spruce Street Harbor Park and Pier 53 joined Race Street Pier and Morgan's Pier as must-see destinations whose lovely vistas, quirky designs and fun eats enchant visitors. Thank you, visionary developers, for delighting us with the unexpected (and for promising the opening of additional parks next summer).

6. When a woman goes missing and her husband immediately says he wants to move on, you've got Suspect No. 1.

Just one day after the body of his wife, Connie, was found in Pennypack Park, Christopher Murray told a reporter he just wanted the incident "to go away." Within days, cops charged Murray - who is 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds - with strangling his one-armed wife on Aug. 5, leaving his two daughters motherless and a community devastated. Thank you, Mr. Murray, for absolutely nothing.

7. Accountability has to go both ways.

When a fire roared through the 6500 block on Gesner Street in the early hours of July 5, killing four children, some neighbors blamed the Fire Department for not arriving in time to save the children, yet were unwilling to blame whoever started the fire in the first place. Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer defended his department's one-minute response, saying, "You're asking our heroes to be superheroes." Thank you, commissioner, for telling it like it is - and thank your firefighters for being superheroes every day.

8. Jesus is a Philly guy.

Former heroin addict Michael Grant, a/k/a "Philly Jesus," turned heads this summer by dressing like the savior and dragging a cross around town as a "way of sharing Jesus without preaching with a blow horn and condemning people." He stops traffic, counters insults with Scripture and, on a whim, break-dances at street parties, all in an effort to share the divine love that saved him. Thank you, Philly Jesus, for being a new kind of "Philly character"- the kind that has nothing to do with drunken tailgating or political fraud.

We could use more of your kind around here.

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly