The Things I Have Learned Through Ten Years of Rootedness

by Mark Votava


It has been ten years since I moved into the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to become a part of its life.  I remember back in 2004 when I left my life in Kent, packing up my apartment and leaving a life of individualism behind me.  Over the course of a decade in the parish where I live now I have learned many things about life that I would have no understanding of otherwise.

  • Challenged to live authentically and relationally

It was kind of a risk to leave a lot of what I thought I knew and allow my spirituality to be shaped within me through the relationships of this new place.  I thought I understood how to love, connect, listen and show compassion.  But this place has challenged me to live authentically, relationally and not hide from who I am.

  • The questions that haunt me

I started to question a lot of things within me such as: “Maybe I don’t have all the answers.  Maybe I don’t understand how to love.  Maybe I am afraid of being known by others.  Maybe my human experience is not authentic.”

  • Learning to face my fears

I had to learn to face my fears, to allow others in my life, to listen to others of a different perception than my own, to face poverty and practice hospitality.  This has scared me.  This has shaped me tremendously.  This has shown me ways to do something different.

  • The illusion of independence, the life of interdependence

Giving up a life of comfort and ease has not been easy for me.  Sometimes I want my life of individualism back.  I want to go back to the matrix where I can do anything I want and live in the illusion of independence where I do not see the consequences of my actions.  But I am finding that the life of interdependence is much more what I was meant to live.

  • Seeing all of life as sacred

Sometimes I can feel absent and yet remain faithful to being present.  It is all so ordinary and hard to explain how a decade of my life in this place has helped me to see everything as sacred.  I am being freed of the traps of my own dualities and liberated to see all of life as sacred.  This place has caused me to focus on what I love, what I am for, what is authentic, what is beautiful instead of just falling into despair.

  • God is revealed through the ordinary things of life

Eating together, doing common work, learning together, practicing hospitality, walking the streets, spending time in public spaces, engaging in ordinary conversations, laughing, dreaming, listening, storytelling, showing love and compassion all have revealed more of God to me through the ordinary things of life.  I have learned to be grateful cultivating a way of life in which gratitude lives in me, guiding me when I am tempted to live in my depression and idealism.  Happiness instead of sadness is living more within me because of my relationship to this place, this community, this way of life.

How has being rooted in the place you live shaped you?