If you read my book, you probably remember the story of Pam Sloate–a family friend, and a great inspiration for those with disabilities to overcome.
Pam suffered from dystonia, a rare neurological movement disorder, yet despite her illness, she managed to live a very fulfilling life. In addition to earning Brown undergrad degree and a NYU Law degree, Pam worked tirelessly for the cause of helping those with Dystonia. Unfortunately, Pam passed away earlier this month. As they had been dear friends since college, my wife was quite devastated, as was I.
Pam’s passing made me think about the impact she had on those around her, and I could see that her life helped others in two very important ways.
By facing her physical challenges head on (and with a big smile on her face), she was an inspiration to anyone with disabilities but with aspirations of accomplishing big things.
However, her friendship with my wife and her circle of friends in college points to an even greater lasting impact. They were made into better versions of themselves because of that friendship, and that inadvertent fostering of inclusivity. They never made a conscious choice to include Pam–her personality is what prompted the friendships–but they were inclusive long before that word ever entered into the lexicon of the public’s consciousness, and it made them all better people!
Pam’s death wasn’t sudden, and her end-of-life journey showed just how important the Relationships Pillar is compared to other things at that stage. What mattered–far more than material things–was the love of her family and friends. In fact, it’s safe to say that Pam lives on in them. Hopefully, when the time comes for each of us, we all will live on in our nearest and dearest.
I was certainly fortunate to get to know her, even if it was later in life. Her enduring fight against her illness, and how she made great strides in spreading awareness of it, was an inspirational story worth sharing.(advocate for dystonia and inspired others with dystonia)
When I interviewed her for my book, she talked of a cancer diagnosis she had just received, which, on top of her dystonia, certainly complicated her life.
“You know something, Ed?” she said. “Nothing surprises me anymore. I think of myself as ’The Little Engine that Tried.’ I am just trying all the time.”
To her credit, Pam was optimistic regardless of the circumstances, and that is an enviable trait.
But what I find especially noteworthy about Pam’s life are the bonds she shared with my wife and their circle of friends, while they all attended Brown University.
Sure, Pam was courageous and determined, and when it came to dealing with her disability, a bit zany. My wife and her friends loved her for these traits. But they also learned firsthand that, despite whatever makes a disabled person different, all people are capable of enriching you in ways you didn’t expect.
They were living the value of inclusivity when it wasn’t even defined yet, and it made them better people because of it. Nowadays, when diversity and inclusion are spoken of, race and gender are usually the facets of “otherness” that come to mind. But the disabled are just as worthy of inclusion. Although to them Pam’s disability never entered into the equation when it came to forging their friendship, what would the “Brown Girls” have been like if they had excluded her because she was different? Probably not as fun.
So please consider this a celebration of Pam’s life and her accomplishments as a voice of inspiration, and also a celebration of how inclusivity can make you a better person and enrich your life.
Rest in Peace Pam. You will continue to be an inspiration to many.
P.S. PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success is a complete system for planning your life to get what you want, and has been a top seller in three categories: “Motivational Growth & Spirituality”, “Personal Success & Spirituality” and “Management Skills”. I hope you check it out if you have not purchased a copy.
P.S.S. On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, I will be taking part in the 2022 Inaugural Virtual DEI Industry Design Thinking Summit. Tune in and check it out!