WHAT FRED ROONEY HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE:

Living eulogies.

I don’t love the name, but for many years now, I’ve had this idea for a business or a project.

What if we didn’t wait until the person we loved died, to say nice things about them in front of the world? I never understand why we wait to celebrate their legacy until after they’re gone.

For 15 years now, I’ve known Fred Rooney. And for 15 years, I’ve learned life lesson after life lesson. Whether you know Fred or not, I hope some of these insights serve you in some way. If at the very least, to do something similar for someone that matters to you.

START WITH ONE:

For Christmas this year, I asked my dad if we could start a ritual called “Fridays with My Father.” The idea is simple. We ask each other, via email, one question every Friday. I love my father with my whole being, but there is so much about him I still feel like I don’t know, so it’s a fun exercise. A few weeks ago, he asked me who is the one person I know in real life that has done the most amount of good for humanity?

“Fred Rooney,” I replied.

I consider Fred to be a person that truly changes the world, but he has an interesting approach to his impact. As opposed to the “influencers” on social media who aim to amass millions of followers, Fred focuses on helping one person at a time. He has rescued children that have been kidnapped, brought babies over to the US for life saving heart surgeries, represented individuals in every human rights area imaginable, hosted hundreds of strangers at his house, secured scholarship funds for first time college students, and has abstained from consuming animals for over 30+ years (and so much more).

But he starts with one. And watches the effect snowball, because it does.

PEOPLE NOT PLACES:

When I asked Fred for a life motto he likes to live by a few years ago, he said, “people not places.” This resonated. Fred loves people more than anyone I have ever seen. He genuinely cares about them, their stories, their dreams, and their struggles. Then he does all he can to help them elevate their dream, or eliminate their struggle. And a funny thing happens when you are around Fred. No matter where you are in the world, he has good people around him. I get it now.

BELIEVE IN SOMEONE:

Many of my most significant life experiences for the last 15 years have been thanks to Fred. He helped me create and fund a project in the Dominican Republic when I was in law school. He urged me to join him on my first trip to Medellin, Colombia 3 years ago. He set aside some of his own budget to bring me to Bulgaria last December. He believes in me. And his belief in my abilities and work I create has led me to learn Spanish, build a team in Medellin, and now create entrepreneurial programs for the Roma communities of Bulgaria. And he does not just play this role for me. He does it for the law students and lawyers in his global incubator programs, his kids, and the thousands of people that go to him for life and legal guidance. We all need someone who believes in us.

WARM EFFICIENCY:

Watching Fred write an email is truly a work of art. I’ve never seen someone be able to get directly to the point, while not appearing cold in the least. He is bold in his asks, yet does it with tact and grace. He stays on people’s radars to share his work, as well as the possible contributions of those he champions. “When you believe that your requests and proposals are for a greater benefit to society, it gets easy to keep asking,” he said.

INTUITIVE INTERROGATION:

Fred asks a lot of questions, of everyone he meets. Whether he is pitching a project to the US Embassy, seeking collaboration with local NGO’s, or trying to help a friends’ child get into college, Fred is a master at asking questions. Last night, we were walking through the city centre of Sofia, and I asked, “how did you get so good at asking questions?” He told me that he follows his intuition, which allows him to know when to push the envelope, and when to back off. Both are equally as important, but intuition guides me.

CALL ME TOMORROW:

This one might be my favorite. Fred is on the phone all day long. A lot of people want to talk to him. They want to feel his light or seek his counsel. Every time we talk on the phone, right before we hang up, he says the same thing.

“Call me tomorrow.”

It always makes me laugh, and is now a running joke for us.

But the more I get to know Fred, the more I understand the meaning behind his “call me tomorrow.”

He means, I am here for you. I am not too busy to take your call. I care about you, and your life matters to me.

I am grateful for this man.

I am grateful that somehow the universe chose my life to be one of the lives Fred Rooney has made better.

I am grateful to know many places in lands, near and far, with this person.

I am grateful that because he believes in me, I want to do better.

I am grateful that I am included on his emails that move dream projects forward.

I am grateful that I get to learn how to care about others and ask them the hard questions in a kind way.

But more than anything Fred,

I’m grateful that I get a chance to see what you think about this email, to hear your voice, and to tell you that I love you…..

When I call you tomorrow.

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