Hi from Volunteer Mike:

John Ratliff’s new short commentary on life, titled “Atonement” prompted me to write an introduction and offer my own thoughts on “the secret of gratitude, love, and happiness” as seen through the eyes of one of our Compass Plus classes.

Compass Plus classes are held in the Memory Care Center on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s.  These are specially designed to offer therapeutic, activity-driven classes for those in the mild cognitive stage. They are a full five-hour program including a nutritious lunch with opportunity for purposeful socialization.

The participants in Compass Plus have amazing brains and I am so proud of their thoughtful and inspired contributions and debate. Let me give you a few examples from the past three weeks where we focused on the meaning of gratitude and the pursuit of happiness and love. Sounds simple? Just listen to what they have to say!


The first week considered the meaning of gratitude and set the scene for some insightful debate on the secret of happiness and love. Quotations included “start each day with a positive thought and grateful heart,” “smile gratefully when you awake,”and “always remember people who have helped you along the way.” The class members agreed that they valued many things in life, appreciated people who helped them, and happily recalled support from friends and family who deserved their eternal and sincere thanks.


In the second week, we agreed that happiness often comes from achieving challenging things in life. To complete something successfully and be proud of the result. Also, that happiness cannot be worn, earned or consumed. Happiness is a spiritual choice of living every moment with love, grace, and gratitude. Ah! There is that word again! Happiness is a choice and you can choose to be happy and not allow stress to determine your life’s direction.

The class members listed things that brought happiness and I include just a few: Love of family and friends, the wind in your hair when flying over water in a boat, helping others, my dog, music, travel, fresh cut grass, blue skies, my dog retrieving anything! Dancing, marriage to a great girl, good food, helping other people, waking up on the right side of the grass, friends, people who say thank you, my wife’s smile, grandkids and their hugs, cooking, singing, bridge, golf, my friends here, and many said “Memory Matters”!


Love is a very deep subject and we sought to find out what each class member associated with the word “love”. Each person produced a list of ten associations and I list a selection: Wife, family, Church, parents, home, friends, rain, never being alone, volunteering, reading about people who have contributed to our world, a faster heart rate, time available to do anything, sleep, music, freedom, a perfect morning, sunrise and sunset, laughing, and Memory Matters. One gentleman completed his list with the most profound series of thoughts he associated with love, namely: kindness, forgiveness, consideration, thoughtfulness, insight, spiritual, freedom, religion, family and friends. All written in perfect cursive handwriting!

We challenged the class members to tell us what single act witnessed in their lives had most demonstrated the power of love. Answers included: a wedding, being helped to cross a busy road, raising children, serving homeless people with food, working at a job you didn’t like, two perfect wives, being rescued from a car accident and, my favorite, was the lady who wrote “my Grandmother’s last hours of life”!

We concluded our day of love by listing and singing dozens of songs with “love” in the title. We came up with close to eighty! Can you the reader beat that? Please send me your list to share with our class members.

This song garnered most votes for the class favorite. It was written and sung by Elvis.

Love me tender, love me sweet
Never let me go
You have made my life complete
And I love you so
Love me tender, love me true
All my dreams fulfill
For my darling I love you
And I always will
The most popular song to sing was by the Beatles
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need

Now please enjoy John Ratliff’s new contribution.


My daughter is reading Ian McEwan’s brilliant novel which was adapted into an exquisite film of the same name. As I was going through my morning routine in the pre-dawn quiet of the wee hours an overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over me. Like a domestic working in a large mansion I have always taken immense pleasure in the simple tasks which provide me with a predictable, comforting rhythm; making coffee, emptying the dishwasher, preparing breakfast, taking out the trash…

For some reason I have always admired the dignity of people who take pride in their work, no matter how humble their station in life may be. In fact, it has always seemed to me one of life’s most ironic realities that the hired help who serve wealthy people very often appear to have a much better grasp on what really matters, on the secret to happiness…

“I asked professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.

And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river

And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.” – Carl Sandburg

Compass Plus is a vibrant and therapeutic activity-driven program. It is also great fun! Please contact Caroline at 1 843 842 6688 should you wish to enroll in the class, or if you know of someone who would benefit. Thank you for reading this and supporting Memory Matters.