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The Parable of the Peas

Blog Headers 2023-24 (5)

Editor’s note: Just as a new recipe can change our opinion on an ingredient, missioner-in-Formation Susan Sarkissian shares how her community at Casa San Salvador has inspired her to change her perspective through their witness to adaptability and service.

Peas were a staple on the dinner table. My mother loved them. There it would sit, that giant bowl of pale, sickly green, semi-deflated balls of apparent nutritious goodness. My mom would scoop a generous portion and instruct me to “eat every bite.” I wanted to be obedient, so I took up a spoonful and slowly dropped it into the well of my mouth. I held them there for a long while, fearing what I knew was to come. Then I bit down and cringed as that mass became like slimy, wet paper. I tried to swallow quickly without gagging, but it was so hard. My only salvation was a tall glass of water, which I promptly swished in my mouth. The flavor didn’t bother me because they didn’t taste like anything. It was that nasty texture I just couldn’t stand.

Recently, a housemate made a big pot of vegetarian chili. I dove in and loved the smells, the flavors, and the texture until I noticed it contained peas. I stared down at the bowl for a few moments. I remember my commitment to mission service and the desire to grow with a spirit of cooperation and openness to new experiences.  And the cook was seated right next to me! I resisted the temptation to pick out the peas. I reasoned that I had already eaten a little. So I put that spoon in my mouth. It was delicious, and texture was not an issue. I licked my bowl clean! 

That same evening, my housemates and I were discussing an assigned reading about living the Franciscan charism in a modern world. I read this work earlier in the summer and shared that I did not like the book. It was like the peas—a brief encounter formed a lasting impression. I retired for the evening but awoke in the wee hours feeling awful about the comments I made. It was 2 a.m., but I picked up that book and read. The words coming off the page somehow carried new meaning for me. Tears of joy ran down my cheek as I felt a change in my heart. I wondered what was so different between this summer and now. I realized it was the grace of coming to FMS formation.

At the Casa, I live with seven other men and women who share a vision of friendship, unity, and service to others. I have witnessed numerous acts of charity, a willingness to adapt or change, and even sacrifice of personal space or time for another. Love is the guiding force, and with that spirit, I find a growing desire to experience life through new eyes. Perhaps I will stop hating those peas and learn to love them!

Question for reflection: What are you called to see with new eyes?

Susan is from California and enjoyed her role as wife and mother for 17 years. When her husband died, she put her degree to work teaching math to high school students. She retired in 2022 so that she could dedicate time to nurture her newfound faith. Living simply was born out of necessity, but it also allowed for greater freedom in looking for new opportunities. FMS was one of many doors that opened for Susan in her journey to seek others who share her faith as well as a desire to serve. As a long-term lay missioner, Susan looks forward to the opportunity to build relationships in her new home, as well as develop a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those marginalized in society.