April 17, 2020 

My Dear Friends,

As the days pass, and I receive emails from every business I’ve ever crossed paths with, I felt the need to reach out to you, my Direct Effect family. I know that it has been a surreal time for us all, and I hope that I can share some of the things that have helped me live with isolation on a daily basis. In the past 3 or so years, I can count the times I’ve left my small apartment on my fingers and toes, and I only have nine toes. Three of those outings were visiting my favorite Letters to Santa school. This is where the above picture was taken, and I hope that boy is spending his days at home learning to be the best ventriloquist that he can be. There are few things I consider myself an expert on, but if I had to pick just one, it would be isolation.

Still, only a few months ago, I found myself crying to a friend about it. I was feeling desperate and destitute, as my plans to move the charity homebase to California continue to fail me. It was just before the coronavirus exploded and massive isolation began. To make matters worse, my friend is in charge of a huge institution and literally carries thousands of lives in his hands. He didn’t need to be listening to me whine. Little did either of us know what was about to happen to this world. I suspect he may have known a little more than I, but didn’t want to scare me. 

As most of you know, I am disabled and often live with a great deal of pain. It’s very hard for me to leave my apartment because there are stairs which have become too difficult to navigate. I have very little immunity, my hands are deformed and my arms are partially paralyzed. The Chicago weather causes me even more pain and my body is literally starving for the sun. 

I am likely the perfect candidate for coronavirus and I am grateful to say it has not touched my life personally. I am so sorry if it has yours, especially if it has resulted in death.

I consider myself fortunate that I am still able to live in my own apartment. Gratefully, my hands work enough that I am able to still write, run the charity and take care of my personal needs. Let’s just say, I’ve learned to adapt because I have no choice. I’ve mentioned Stephen Hawking in the space before and he truly is my hero. He lived his life to the fullest, in spite of his extreme disability. He will forever inspire me. If only my brain could hold a candle to his!

When Coronavirus hit us hard and the lockdowns started, I felt incredibly sad because I know the stark reality of isolation. It’s something that has taken me years to accept and the reality is that I still sometimes struggle with it. It seemed impossible to picture it as a way of life for virtually everyone. Then, as I watched the world shut down around me, suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone. For years, it had felt like I was experiencing my own personal pandemic.

The first half of last year was especially difficult, as I suffered suicidal pain as a result of a step in my spine. My spinal cord was literally being strangled. Aside from my daughter and the charity, what saved my life was mindful meditation, and eventually, a double neurosurgery in July. 

I would encounter a wonderful teacher by the name of Vidyamala Burch who taught me how to manage my pain without wanting to take my own life. In the very worst of times, she taught me how to comfort myself and gave me a sense of peace I had never known. While I had long been into meditation, she offered me unfound tools which kept my life from becoming unbearable. She has created a program specifically for coronavirus and it is free. I wanted to share that with you and it can be found here

Another favorite meditation teacher is named Jennifer Piercy. For many years she helped me sleep while suffering in pain and can pretty much put me into a coma. You can find her sleep meditation on the Insight Timer app and it is free. I hope that Jennifer can be of help to you if you are experiencing sleepless nights.

My final favorite teacher is Bethany Auriel-Hagen. While some of her meditations might be years old, it’s as if they were made for a pandemic. Little did she know when she recorded them just how relavent they would become. It is almost as if she knew. 

There are also many meditations available for children which I believe can be very helpful to them in this difficult time.

One of the big things that also helps me to accept isolation is gratitude. I hope his pandemic will help us get back to basics and we will become deeply grateful for the love and privilege we have in our lives. I pray that we will become closer as communities and will learn what is really important. To me, that is and always has been helping others. We were put on this earth to help each other and if this pandemic has shown us anything, it is this. Life is about people, not possessions, and I hope this is a lesson everyone will learn as a result of what is happening.

I have been on a news-fast for a very long time and even today, I try not to over consume. The constant reminders will surely not help us. Our minds need time to breathe, as do we. I try to follow the updates of the mayor and governor, but I refuse to watch or read the news all day long, as I once did. My television screen right now is a fish tank and it remains that way pretty much 24/7. I don’t think of next month or next year or sometimes, not even tomorrow. We must truly live life in the moment, hour by hour,  and be grateful for what we have been given.

With the help of our friends at Chicago Public schools, we have been able to donate hundreds Elenco Electronic Playgrounds for students who are now at home. We still have quite a few left and if you have a school that could distribute some, please do let me know. They are not only fun but extremely educational and I know they are helping so many children right now.

Samara is still in California and will not be graduating as scheduled in May. Halfway into making her senior thesis film, production was halted, so that has not been completed. All of her other classes are remote and she is also helping the community by working as a postmate in California. She was lucky to get an internship with a very good production company which she might be able to continue over the summer. Because she still has to finish her thesis, she would prefer to stay in California if at all possible and we are hopeful that she can find a job and a place to live. She plans on continuing her work with the charity.

As for me, I’m still hoping for a miracle that will get me to California. In many ways, this pandemic has made my resolve stronger. I’m going to continue working hard to find sponsorship for our programs and somehow find a way to make the move. If nothing else, this tragedy has taught me that every day is precious and we have to treat it as such. None of us are immune, nor are we guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s continue living for and in the moment and before we know it, we will find our way to a better tomorrow.

I have run this charity for nearly 20 years now and I’m looking forward to 20 more. I do hope you will continue to join me. Please keep yourself well and take care of those you love because they really are all that is important. 

Every single one of you are in my heart and I will always be grateful for the support you have shown my work. It has truly made me a lucky girl. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime

With Love and Gratitude,

Michelle DiGiacomo


Direct Effect Charities


PS How could I forget two hours of tranquility? This piece of music is very soothing and I often have it playing quietly in the background. It helps me a great deal and I hope it will help you too.

Please consider making a donation today to support our work. It is especially difficult for me to even ask this during this time, but your donations are truly what keep us alive. As we stand today, we likely do not have enough funds for our expenses throughout the year. Donations can be made using our email directeffect@ameritech.net via 

Chase Pay, Venmo, Zelle or Paypal. They can also be mailed to;

Direct Effect Charities 

4044 N Lincoln Ave #400

Chicago, IL 60618

We would be grateful for any help at all.

Thanks to Elenco for helping us to keep hundreds of kids learning during this difficult time!

“I ask myself, how did this happen?” Letterman said. “And I’ll tell you how it happened. It wasn’t because of me. It was because of hundreds and hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who helped me. And I would just like to say, we have to help each other or nothing will happen" One of life’s absolutely universal truths, he said, is the great feeling we get when we help other people. “If you help someone, in any way, big or small, automatically you will feel good about yourself.” 

 ~David Letterman~

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