What do voting in an election, a clean shirt and having an umbrella in the car have in common?
To Silver Spring resident Jack B. Ralph, they are love — something the 87-year-old knows quite a bit about.
He has written a book outlining 358 examples.
Ralph and his wife, Lenora Shaffer Ralph, have been married 62 years and have two children and five grandchildren. The secret to their long life together, they say, is respecting each other and having a sense of humor.
“We are two different people and we have to acknowledge that and we have our own faults,” Lenora said.
The two met at a dance in 1950 — or 100 years ago, as Lenora put it — at a Jewish community center on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.
“It was chemistry,” Jack said. “Honest to God, I couldn’t believe it.”
He said their ability to dance well together showed the couple could work together.
“It has worked for 60 years because I could see in the beginning a good relationship from the dance floor,” he said.
About a year ago, Jack received an email containing 21 definitions of love as told by children. The very last example, he said, is what inspired him to write his self-published book, “Love is: 358 Ways to Learn to Live a Life of Love.”
The anecdote, which is included in the start of the book, described a 4-year-old child who lived next door to an elderly gentleman whose wife had just died. When the child saw the man cry, it said, the little boy went over to the old gentleman and just sat with him. When the boy’s mother asked what he said to the neighbor, the story goes, the boy said, “I didn’t say anything. I just helped him cry.”
“It just hit me so hard,” Jack said. “If the kids can define love, why can’t the adults do it?”
Jack asked family members and friends at American Legion Post 268 in Wheaton to send their examples of love for his book.
He said he would think of definitions of love as he was driving, making sure to note them as soon as he stopped somewhere or while sharing a senior special for two at IHOP. He said he hopes his book will become a device to start measuring love.
“You can buy a bucket of apples, but you can’t buy a bucket of love,” he said. “This type of book shows little things that you can do that you think are just a normal way of life, [but] they are actually showing love.”
Jack described love as a continuum.
Some of his wide-ranging examples of love are: passing a kidney stone (number 59), quietly humming a tune (number 64), telling a joke (number 208) and joining the PTA (number 225).
Some are more personal, such as: “Love is when daddy dries mommy’s legs with a towel after her shower.” (number 26)
Of the first 50 books he had printed, Jack said, about a dozen remain. Lenora said she didn’t know her husband had such a big heart until she read the book, which is available through AuthorHouse book publishing company and amazon.com.
While she did not directly contribute to the list, Jack said, a few items on that list were inspired by Lenora.
“Everything you do has to have some love to it. It shows concern not only for yourself, but for your family,” Jack said.