Perfect Attendance in an Age of Absence


A couple of days ago our family had a lot of fun playing a board game. We all laughed a lot, no one got overly upset, there were no fights or personal gabs, and no emotional devastation to clean up afterwards. Believe me, it doesn’t always work out this way! I took time to pause and notice how good this everyday experience felt and to acknowledge the significance of it. It was a welcome moment of awareness and gratitude.

How often do we glide through our lives on automatic pilot, missing the subtle moments of meaning, connection, or delight? We can be present in the room, yet absent to the experiences in it. We’re home but not at home, listening while planning tomorrow’s schedule, showing up to the meeting while writing the next meeting’s agenda in our minds. Truth is, restlessness is the norm and staying present is an art. We have perfect attendance but should be sent to detention for being absent.

One of my favorite spiritual writers, Ron Rolheiser, talks wisely about how restless we are in this age. Our restlessness leads us to perpetual preparation and tempts us with whatever we don’t quite have. Rolheiser provides this list to help us all reorient:

  • Life is what happens to you while you are planning your life.
  • I always resented interruptions to my work until I realized that those interruptions were my real work.
  • My neighbor is the person who is actually in my life while I am plotting how to be in somebody else’s life.
  • Love is what you are experiencing while you are futilely searching for it beyond your own circles—and taking the circles around you for granted.
  • Joy is what catches you by surprise, from a source that is quite other than where you are pursuing it.


You can find Ron Rolheiser’s book, Against an Infinite Horizon, here. This list is found on page 21.


  1. So needed to read this today!! Thanks for the reminder – being home with sick kids is not an “interruption” in my life…this is life!

  2. Hi Janice,
    I was a freshman at UCSC when you served as a Campus Minister with IVCF. I stumbled on your blog, and it has been very helpful. Thank you for sharing.
    Christine Sinnaco-Redshaw

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