Article & Photography by Abigail Field | Owl Staff
Anna Rendina makes a positive impact on everyone around her.
Who is your “Angel on earth”? Is it a parent? A friend? A teacher? Mine is an 86-year-old, Italian, 4-foot 11-inch woman, named Anna Rendina.
“Angel on earth? You’re joking.” Anna sips her espresso. “Don’t mislead your readers,” she says with a laugh.
I met Anna by chance. She was my grandmother’s neighbor nearly a decade ago. However, we remained in touch and she has had more of an impact on my life than anyone. She lives alone now in a modest apartment since the passing of her husband in 2021.
Many people may (and certainly have decided to) take advantage of her kindness. However, I know that I, and countless other people, owe her more appreciation than words can encompass and gratitude can reflect. She is welcoming to all neighbors alike and is sure to make every newcomer feel welcome and loved. She is far too humble, but I want to share with you her story, and the origin of her undying love for the world.
Anna never asked for much. Even at a young age, she exhibited the characteristics of a grown woman. She never squabbled with her six other brothers and sisters, never disobeyed her parents, always did what she was told, and was always there to help a fellow classmate in need. Maybe it was the strong Catholic beliefs that her parents instilled in her. Maybe it was just an unwarranted effect of watching her little sister struggle with polio all her childhood. Regardless of the cause, Anna held a love for human beings that never faltered, even when they proved time and time again that it should.
In the 1960s, Anna met her late husband, Ralph Rendina, an American soldier visiting Rome, Italy, on assignment. Soon, they fell in love, married, and had three beautiful children. However, despite Anna’s fears, the family had to move to America for Ralph’s next assignment.
“That great land across the sea sure sounded interesting, but certainly not intriguing,” she says. “I heard such strange things about it on the radio and even learned about its history in school. I never told Ralph this, but I did not want to go, but I felt that God wanted me in America and so I went without protest.”
Anna and her family soon travelled to America but shortly upon their arrival, Ralph had to be reassigned. Anna was now alone in a foreign country, knowing no English and with no family. She struggled to make friends who were willing to give her the time and patience due to the language barrier. She rarely left the house and fell into months of dark and depressing nights.
“I will never forget the way I was treated by my neighbors in America. I believe in forgiveness, I wish them well, and I hope they were and are happy in their lives,” states Anna. “However, I can tell you I would never treat another person like they were less than human. No matter the language, no matter the culture, no matter the circumstance.”
“I believe everything happens for a reason and I am grateful I went through those years of constant hands dismissing me, inconsiderately loud speakers, and painfully slow talkers. They taught me more empathy for humans then I had ever known before.”
As time progressed and Anna better retained the English language, life got noticeably better for her. She became more involved in her children’s lives and in her community’s lives. People were much more open and welcoming to Anna then her initial arrival. This revelation saddened her and from that point forward, she made sure she would be there for any person, of any country, struggling with a battle of any kind.
Since I have known Anna, she always goes the extra step to check on people. Whether it is fixing dinner for a fellow resident, having morning espressos with a sick neighbor, making cookies for the mailman, or even entertaining busy family’s children so they aren’t alone, Anna has made it her personal mission to bring compassion to people from all walks of life.
She plays the part of mother, counselor, teacher, and friend too well for this world. When I found myself struggling, she made sure I never left her house or ended a phone call upset.
“Angel on earth? No, not even close. I live by the golden rule which is to treat others how you want to be treated. Or rather, how I wish I was treated,” she says with a soft smile.
So, I invite all readers to reflect on their own “angel on earth” and what made them that way. Who knows, maybe you could be someone’s “angel on earth” just as Anna Rendina was unknowingly mine.