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  • Brian Myers

Alphabet Flashcards

My daughter was learning her letters and preparing to read at school. Each night we would review flashcards of each of the lowercase and uppercase letters and numerals. My goal was for her to get all of them right on the first try in less than four minutes. When she got one wrong, I would repeat it again a few cards later so she could continue to practice it until she got it right.

It was a little tricky fumbling with physical flashcards when you're trying to go fast, and she likes computer games so I thought she might be more motivated to do it if I put it on a screen. Being a computer programmer, I whipped up an app that would shuffle the letters and numbers, display them one at a time, enable me to indicate if she got it right or wrong, repeat wrong cards shortly after, and display the time it took her to finish all the cards and the percentage accuracy at the end.

While my daughter could name most of the letters, she struggled to get through them all in less than four minutes. Most of the time she would name a letter, then fidget with whatever she could grab from my desk, then name another letter, then tell me a story about how that letter looks like another letter, then name a letter, then twirl in a circle for a while, and... You get the idea. Usually by the end of four minutes she had only made it through about 75% of the letters and with accuracy around 90%. She just could not get the letter 'R' right. I expected she would gradually improve 1 or 2% at a time until eventually she finished the list in just under four minutes.

After repeating this exercise for a couple months, one night she totally surprised me! I don't know what changed that night, but she was in the zone - focused on the task at hand without any distractions. She named each letter as soon as it appeared without any fidgeting or exposition. One after another, she got them right. Even the letter 'R' popped right out of her mouth when it appeared on screen. She didn't gradually improve until she just barely made it within four minutes. She got a perfect score in just two and a half minutes! I could believe it! It was dramatically better than anything she had done before. Truth be told, there were nights after when she would get distracted again and not complete the exercise, but on that night when she was focused, she was able to achieve something amazing.

We can always reflect on our experiences in our domestic churches to consider how they might help us grow in faith, so I reflected on this experience as we began the season of Lent. I thought about how difficult it was for my daughter to be successful when she was distracted and unfocused, and how dramatically she improved when she tuned out the distractions and focused. I think this is a good model for what we do in Lent.

During the season of Lent, we are encouraged to fast. This can be a way of tuning out distractions. We remove the things that pull our attention away from our relationship with God. During the season of Lent, we are encouraged to pray. We focus on God and enter more deeply into our relationship with Him. During the season of Lent, we are encouraged to give alms. When we have tuned out the distractions and focused our attention on God, we are able to be more successful in doing the work of building the Kingdom of God and loving our neighbors. When my daughter gave a wrong answer on one of the flashcards, I would give her the chance to try again a few cards later. When we fail during Lent, we have the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and try again. Like my daughter was able to dramatically improve her ability to name the letters and numbers when she tuned out distractions and focused, we can dramatically deepen our faith in God when we tune out the distractions and focus on Him during this season of Lent!



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