Učina | Simple Acts of Kindness

Welcome to Real Life. In his book Just a Minute, Wes Stafford tells stories of children whose lives have been impacted by an adult who cared. This is the story of an adult who cared about me. 

Leo and Frances Kramar at my parents' wedding
When my father immigrated to the United States, he was sponsored by Leo and Frances Kramar. The Kramar family once lived in his hometown of Lučky, Slovakia. They had moved to America years earlier and were now well-established. Though not related, we called them Uček and Učina (uncle and aunt). 

The Kramars owed my father nothing. Yet, they selflessly gave of their time and resources to help first him (as a bachelor) and then his new family (once he married) settle in America. Uček was kind. Yet, he was often busy helping my father. But, Učina was kind and welcoming. She enjoyed our presence.

The couple owned a neat brick double in an old Slavic neighborhood of Cleveland. To a child, it was an enormous place with endless nooks and crannies to explore. A tiny grove of plum trees grew in one corner of their manicured yard. Another corner contained Uček’s small junk yard of broken-down cars. He even had a dilapidated Model T Ford safely tucked in his garage. The front door of their home opened to a small parlor. Učina kept a box of games for us children there.  We'd play “Pick-up Sticks” or “Old Maid” on the parlor floor while snacking on Mr. Salty pretzels. The room behind the parlor held an enormous dining table. At that table, Učina served our family formal Sunday after-church dinners. Her first course was always polievka (soup, a chicken broth with thin noodles). 

It was the 1960's. In contrast to the new mod fashions, Učina appeared as a relic from the turn of the century. Her dresses were plain and cotton, well-worn to a comfortable softness. Her shoes were the sturdy, black-leather nanny type, with a slight heal. 

Učina's silver hair was wrapped in a proper bun at the back of her head. One morning after sleeping at our house, she brushed it out in front of the bathroom mirror. She let me watch. Once unwound, her thin tresses fell down the length of her back like an ancient Rapunzel. Apart from fairy tales, I had never seen hair that long. After brushing it, she carefully braided, wound, and secured it in place with wavy bobby pins.  Učina shared her private morning ritual with me. 

Me and Ucina on our way to the shopping center
During another visit, Učina took me shopping.  She did not drive. So, we walked. Though some small shops were close-by, we ventured further to a large shopping center. I was seven. My little legs had never traveled that far. She held my hand while we walked. At one store, she bought me a box of valentines and hard cherry candies. We decided the valentines would be extra-special with a treat in each one. I could hardly wait to hand them out! 

My name is Marguerite. But, everyone has always called me Peggi. Everyone, that is, except Učina. She had a special name for me.  She called me Margie.

Though I don’t believe she ever spoke the words, 
I knew Učina loved me.[1]

Family picture with Ucina and Ucek
As I grew up, Učina faded into the background of my life like a childhood fantasy. She died before I turned twenty. Nothing Učina did was remarkable, earth-shattering, or life-saving. Yet, her simple acts of kindness made an ordinary little girl feel extraordinary. That little girl was me.

Take it further …

  • What simple thing can you do today to make a child (or adult) feel special? Often, it takes just a few words or a small act of kindness. 
  • Interested in helping an immigrant? In the Cleveland area, contact Building Hope in the City
  • Read Wes Stafford’s Just a Minute
  • Consider making a child living in poverty feel special by sponsoring them through Compassion International or World Vision
[1] “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18 NLT).


  1. Oh Peggi - your story demonstrates so clearly the importance of doing the simple things God puts on our hearts for those God puts in our paths. And to see the way those simple things can make such a difference in the lives of the precious ones around us. Thanks for sharing, dear friend. You have indeed blessed me... so often!

  2. me again, Peggi....I'm not really anonymous....it's gail, but I couldn't figure out the part that said "select profile" and anonymous "worked"....not at all a techi friend. just one blessed by you! :)

  3. Hi Gail, thanks for taking the time to read my blog and comment - and letting me know it was you. You've blessed ME today!
    (I commented anonymously for awhile on blogs until I established my own blog.)


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