What Do You Care About?


Johnny Norris, attorney

The things that drive us.     

By Joey Kennedy 

I’m curious. What do you care about? I’m not talking about family and friends. We all care about our family and friends, and if we don’t, most of us don’t talk about it.

We care about world peace and our high crime rate. About our neighborhoods being kept up to standard—some standard, at least. We care about starving children and child abuse.

But what do we really care about? What is our passion?

I care about integrity. If somebody (or some company) promises to do something for a person (or its employees), he (it) should do it. People make career decisions based on what their employers say they will do. But some companies promise, promise, promise, and then, years later, unpromise.

I’m not perfect, I admit. I’ve promised and failed. But if I didn’t apologize, then I was wrong. If I didn’t try to make it right, I failed.

I asked several Birmingham area folks, mostly friends, some of them high-profile and some not, what they really cared about. What moves them? What will they step out for?


Ken Jackson, Birmingham philanthropist: “I really care about minimizing stress in my life and the lives I touch. Too many people seem to look for stressful situations and, if not readily available, will actually create one (and they love to share stress with their friends). And I’ve been doing it (reducing stress) by being just a ‘little bit different’ for a long time. My appearance, sense of humor, off-the-wall comments, and an occasional, ‘pushing the limit’ behavior is all part of the game (of life).”

Judith Haney, certified appraiser: “I care about the environment, the quality of food that we consume, the poor and infirmed, and the well being of animals, and I care about the way people use social media to lift one another up. It is a wonderful time to be alive.”

Cynthia Ryan, college professor: “I care about people speaking their minds, whether they voice the words aloud, draw their thoughts on a blank canvas, produce a YouTube video, or write what they know for others to read. What and how we think matters and is vital to moving our society forward.”

Johnny Norris, attorney: “I care about creatures, human and otherwise. I don’t care about big houses or BMWs or cigarette boats. I don’t wear fancy clothes. I care about a child who can’t stop crying because his daddy didn’t come back from a sandy desert. I care about my dog, whose nose crinkles with joy because I came home.”

Edward Bowser, journalist: “I’m very passionate about working as an advocate for Birmingham’s underserved communities—those scores of families who call this city home, yet so often don’t have a voice. Whether telling their stories through my columns or mentoring young people who crave outlets for their creativity, there’s no greater joy than sharing in their experiences. Too often, those experiences are written off, either cast off in favor of insulting stereotypes or simply ignored altogether.”

Lucy Thompson Marsh, animal activist and philanthropist: “I care deeply for those who have lost their way. Whether it is a person who has fallen on hard times or a stray dog left to survive a thunderstorm, I find myself carrying a part of their burden.”


Hey! Over here. It’s me again. I care about how immigrants, documented or otherwise, are treated in our state. They want the best for their families, their communities. And so often, because they’re “different,” they’re ostracized, they’re invisible, except for derision. Their contributions to our state often go unrecognized. That pisses me off. But I am not alone.


Joe O’Donnell, publisher: “I think I care most about memories. You live them once, and then you live them again, over and over. Good memories. Not-so-good memories. They are all there. Recently, we were sitting in our newly renovated 1925 house in Avondale, relaxing after moving furniture and boxes in miserable heat. I walked outside for a minute and a black Lexus pulled up. Two men in their late 60s were inside, along with their wives together in the back seat. They got out, and the men told me they had lived in this house as teenagers in the 1950s. Would I show it to them? I said sure, and that I’d love to hear their stories, their memories. And they shared them. They teared up when they told me they remembered their father always said he wished he could come back to live here. And they smiled when they said they used to play records in the sunroom and dance in stocking feet out on the porch. They shared that memory and now I have it, too. That’s the thing I like most about memories: They are contagious.”


Dani Mims Pelt, business development coordinator: “As a young girl, I adopted the philosophy that I must serve those who cannot serve themselves: animals and homeless/disadvantaged. They are often overlooked because of egos, beliefs, or fears, and still, we are all here on earth connected as one. I have never learned more about life than I have from these beings, whether the classroom setting was under a bridge while distributing hot hands and meals on the coldest day of the year or at a vet reviving a starved, emaciated dog who was chained to a random tree with no shelter.”


William Weber, veterinarian: “What occupies my mind the most is the plight of animals and the plight of the earth. Overpopulation of humans is causing the destruction of this planet, and humans are causing the overpopulation of dogs and cats and the suffering of our native wildlife. I could go on and on about the suffering of animals, but this is not the place for it and anyone with half a brain should be able to figure it out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of humans that don’t have half of a brain.”

So, what do you care about? Please tell me. I’m really curious.

9 Responses to “What Do You Care About?”

  1. Joey Kennedy says:

    So many people responded to my request about what they care about, and I wasn’t able to get them all in the column, so over the next few days, I’ll post their comments here, in the comments section. Thanks, all, for reading.

  2. Joey Kennedy says:

    Donna Farmer, rescue hero and Realtor: I care about “Happiness and well being of my friends and family, getting dogs and cats into good homes, altruistic endeavors, transcending experiences, finding connections and common ground with others, and good pasteries!

  3. Joey Kennedy says:

    Sandra Storm, former Family Court judge and animal lover: “Family and friends aside, I love First Presbyterian Church and all that being a member there entails. I love First Light. I guess that my passion has to do with the welfare of children and animals. For the past years I have worked with English Springer Rescue America in fostering and transport of adoptable Springer Spaniels. I failed fostering twice and Millie and Max live with me as a result. I also have passion for Hand in Paw and the work of our therapy teams with children in our community. Really love to meet exceptional people and their special animals.

  4. Joey Kennedy says:

    Steve Sexton, attorney: “I am passionate about raising Jonathan to be a good and honorable man. Also, I want to create a bubble of social and religious tolerance around myself and my family.”

  5. Joey Kennedy says:

    Melody Stone, student at UAB: “I care about ensuring reproductive justice throughout my community. Reproductive justice is when all individuals have the economic power, political power, social well being, and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality for themselves, their families, and their communities in all areas of their lives. According to SisterSong, a reproductive justice collective of women of color, reproductive justice is, ‘an expansion of the theory of intersectionality developed by women of color and it is based on the understanding that the oppressions surrounding race, class, gender and sexual identity are not additive but integrative into reproductive oppression.’ I first became involved in reproductive justice as an activist in sexual assault, I was knee deep into that work after I realized that large portions of my identity were being erased in my work. Where were the narratives of black women? Where were the voices of women from various class backgrounds? How did we get left out of the national conversation about sexual assault, and why are our individual concerns ignored? I wanted a more comprehensive framework for my work, and I was introduced to the reproductive justice paradigm by Advocates for Youth and their 1 in 3 campaign. In Advoates I learned the importance of intersectionality, community empowerment, and self advocacy. I’m currently a Public Health student at UAB work in UAB’s Gender & Sexuality Diversity Programs as the Outreach & Services Lead Programmer, and for now I feel I am able to be a leader in a line of work I truly care about.”

  6. Joey Kennedy says:

    Robin DeMonia, PR expert and journalist: “This is tougher than it sounded at first. Beyond family and friends, it is hard to really zero in on what really matters.
    Obviously, at the end of the day, it’s your family and friends that count.
    Here are some random thoughts that have come to me, though:
    1.) Security. I don’t mean this just in the sense of personal safety or even financial comfort, although those obviously matter. I think we sometimes overlook the luxury of living in a society of relative peace and order. I recently read ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ about civil war in Nigeria, and how people and society were thrown into chaos, their lives disrupted, their connection to life’s essentials cut off, and their well-laid plans gone to hell. Maybe the closest we’ve experienced is Hurricane Katrina. It’s frightening to think about how quickly our safety nets can unravel because of circumstances beyond our control and how suddenly we can find ourselves in a basic battle to survive. It’s also humbling to think that this state of uncertainty is a constant reality for many people in the world today.
    2.) Life and health. What can I say? Gary and I are blessed to be here. I always feel the weight of those who fought hard against cancer and lost anyway.
    3.) Faith. Even through raging struggles and doubts, I believe in a God who created us, who has plans for us and who loves us. I believe
    It sustains me, even though I don’t understand it at all.
    4.) Laughter. Where would I be without it?”

  7. Joey Kennedy says:

    Bob Blalock, journalist: “At the risk of ridicule for name-checking a Three Dog Night song, I care deeply about the family of man. And woman and child. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it, and my hope is that each generation of humans continues to push civilization forward and make life better for more of the world’s people.”

  8. Joey Kennedy says:

    What do you care about? Tell us in the comments section. Let’s really care about something important!

  9. Joey Kennedy says:

    Arnold Singer, community activist: “Family, friends and community are very important to me. About a year ago, the program at the Hoover Metro Kiwanis club was about The Arc of Shelby County. That presentation reignited a spark within me; to serve on a nonprofit the provides both services and advocacy for individuals with ID/DD (intellectual and/or developmental disabilities) and their families. Previously I had served as a board officer at a sheltered workshop in New Jersey for over 14 years. You and I share a passion; providing support and advocacy for animals and people.’

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