Ronnie Polaneczky: This year, more than ever, I'm thankful for your tales

Posted: November 23, 2011

IN THE PAST 12 months, I've lost five loved ones. Cried at four deathbeds. Written three eulogies. And had two surgeries.

That makes one crappy year.

I'm usually pretty upbeat. But I'd be a lying Pollyanna if I proclaimed that the blessings of the past 365 days trumped the sorrows. The best I can say is that I now get, in a way I never did before, the difference between real pain and neurotic pain.

Real pain hurts more. But at least it has dignity.

So do the people whose stories I've told in this column. I can't count the times, this past year, when burying myself in their lives saved me when I didn't know how else I'd get through the day.

This Thanksgiving, then, I'd like to express gratitude to all those who shared their tales with me these past rough months.

It's like therapy for me, without the co-pay.

So, thank you, Linda Buckery, for allowing me to be a Salvation Army bell-ringer with you last December, in front of the Gallery at Market East. You volunteer each year to man the red kettle because, you said, "It makes my Christmas feel complete, like life isn't all about me, me, me."

Thank you, Navy Reservist Dan Hazley, for not pulling any punches when you described how hard it was to be deployed three times in seven years. You were desperate for a bridge loan to stabilize your heating-and-cooling company, Can Do Mechanical, which took a major hit while you were serving our country.

You said, "I just need some luck," which you defined as "the product of one's hard work and another's compassion."

Thank you, state Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, for the watershed teen-driving bill you persuaded your Harrisburg brethren to pass. You know that saying, "The making of laws is like the making of sausages - the less you know about the process the more you respect the result"? Thanks for making us look anyway. And for getting it right.

Thank you, chess whiz Vanita Young, a senior at the Walter D. Palmer Charter School. Your lifetime of hard knocks makes my year look like a Saturday at Chuck E. Cheese's. When readers came through with the money you needed to compete in a high-stakes chess tournament, you rewarded their faith by winning the $40,000 scholarship to Texas Tech University.

You hope to continue advancing in chess, a game you said "is always there for me" and "lets me go deep in thought."

Thank you, Marie DeLany, for telling

how you coaxed drug

dealers off your corner

by playing Christian

music from the

third-floor windows

of your Frankford house. The idea came from God, to whom you prayed for the willingness to

see the dealers as

human beings.

"We all have struggles

and problems,"you said. "If all I felt was bitter, how would that change anything?"

Thank you, Alix Genter, for not holding back about the bridal-salon operator who wouldn't sell you a gown because you're a lesbian. Readers responded with offers of everything from designer dresses and bridal flowers to wedding receptions and honeymoon vacations. But you were reluctant to accept the kindness of strangers.

You said, "I don't want anyone to think I went public for any reason except to raise awareness about discrimination."

Thank you, cancer patient Hannah Max, for blazing a trail at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. That's where you needed care that your Dutch insurance company refused to pay for.

Once you convinced the insurer that your treatment was necessary, the company began approving treatment at CHOP for other Dutch kids.

The impact of your success? Says your oncologist, John Maris, "When I walk through the waiting room some days, I hear people speaking Dutch more than I hear English."

Finally, thank you, George Echenhofer. When you were ticketed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority while rendering aid to a car-accident victim, you called the Daily News to vent.

The column that resulted triggered a still-rolling tsunami of tales from readers similarly aggravated. The PPA, in response, is tweaking its customer service. And I have a cache of PPA columns to last me through 2015. Thank you, one and all.


Email polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. Recent columns:www.philly.com/

Ronnie. Ronnie's blog: www.philly.com/RonnieBlog. On Twitter: Follow RonniePhilly.

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