Back on the Bench: Where Family Comes First …

As many of you know, our Friendship Bench has from the start embraced the notion that in times of chaos & uncertainty and even in times of peace & tranquility, we’re simply better together. It’s a bench where people are bound together by choice, founded upon a universal good-faith commitment to listen, understand, respect, empathize with, and support one another. Little did we know how just how real and just how precious that “support” would become —until our good friend, collaborator, and founder of HumansFirst, Mike Vacanti suffered the loss of his home in a tragic fire earlier this week, as shared below:

Humans First: Nothing Can Dim the Light that Shines from Within

Just 72 hours after the fire, Mike chose not to retreat into himself, but to return to our Bench “as usual” in the true spirit of putting humans first. Without question, his presence was a welcome present to all of us. And ours to him. Because we all realized very quickly this week that this amazing community is more than “just a bunch of folks gathering now and then for a chat”, but rather a “home away from home” —in this instance for Mike in his time of need, and an actual place to call home for all of us, in good times, and in bad. A place of honesty, vulnerability, compassion, understanding, tears, and genuine friendship. A place where you can always count on a sincere “hand up” and a virtual hug. And indeed, a place where everyone (really) matters. As Toni Mclelland so aptly put it in the midst of yesterday’s discussion; “We’re not just a community, we’re each other’s extended family”. Truer words were never spoken, particularly in the aftermath of such a traumatic event. We opened with a special contribution from Mark O’Brien

We Shared and We Listened

We listened to Mike put his experience in perspective while expressing his heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming messages of support that have embraced him and Sue from the moment word of the tragedy surfaced. And he listened too, as we all shared our feelings, asked our questions, and collectively exhaled with relief, buoyed by his well-being and the glimmer of his smile and occasional chuckle in the aftermath.

Friends closing the circle of friends even tighter. Because Mike was back. Because Mike and Sue were fine and although they lost treasured possessions, they didn’t lose themselves nor each other in the midst of it all.

Messages of Hope & Healing

As our very special gathering came to a thoughtful close, we chose to share a quote with Mike, but first —the following video message delivered (by Rlyn, now an honorary Friendship Bench member) on behalf of every single member of his HumansFirst “family” across the universe  ↓

And the closing quote?

You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.

Thanks for always waving back Mike. —Because you are our family. And because family comes first …

Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitoccohttps://www.bizcatalyst360.com/
DENNIS is Founder & CEO & Reimaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —an award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, including HopeFest 360° and BucketFest 360° and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Everything Dennis does is carried out "for-good" vs. "for-profit", reflecting his belief that it’s time for a renaissance of pure, unbridled wonder. Time to renew in both our hearts and in our souls more joy, more kindness, more compassion, more understanding, and that magical sense of truly belonging to something greater than the status quo. And time to bring the spirit of “humanity at its very best” back to the forefront. More about his "backstory" HERE. Dennis is also a contributing author to the Best-Selling Book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.


  1. So well said Dennis. Made me so emotional and the ending quote is soooo beautiful with the wonderful video. This incorporates everything about our beautiful community. I am lucky to have many communities I belong but it is rare that so many good-hearted people come together and want to do good in the world with no egos. It is not about them but others. Thank you for dedicating this Friendship Bench to Mike. Yes it was the best present to see him in person. I have a standing meeting every week which keeps me away from many of these meetings but it is lovely to be there even if it is once in a while. I know I have you in my life which is what matters.