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Episode 90: Deseret News family policy reporter talks about her youth and what she learned about ‘seeing’ from blind parents


During rare times when circumstances shift, including the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals have an opportunity “to look into our soul and see if we like what we see there.” Life for Deseret News reporter Lois Collins was a constant invitation to see things differently.

Raised by blind parents, Collins had the opportunity to learn how to “see” in every sense of the word. Of her mother, Collins once wrote, “She taught me not to worry about the things you can’t change, but never to walk away from those you can.”

Now, after some four decades as a journalist writing about families and family policy, she joins the Church News podcast to talk about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, and help listeners look inside themselves — and others — and see if they like what they find there.

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Transcript

Lois Collins: I didn’t think anything of the fact that my parents were blind. There were so many people who thought that my parents couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that, who missed seeing what my parents could do and I think we just need to spend a little bit more time believing that people can do wonderful things and that people are wonderful and most of my career has been spent writing about families that people might not see as real or relate to and I have spent a lot of my career showing that people are not that different, that crisis can happen to anyone and that people can be helped and that we can love each other and take care of each other and reach out to each other, but it’s a matter of giving voice to people who don’t always have a voice.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1:16

Sarah Jane Weaver: As the COVID-19 pandemic began to accelerate across the earth, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] spoke of this rare time of enforced solitude when we don’t have a lot of trivia or superficial busyness distracting us from considering the truly important things in life. “Such times,” he said, “invite us to look into our soul and see if we like what we see there.” Now, two-plus years later, the Church News takes this opportunity to explore what we have learned and how we are different after the COVID pandemic. Raised by blind parents, Desert News reporter Lois M. Collins joins this episode of the podcast to talk about seeing in every sense of the word. She learned as a child how to persevere and become blind to your own limitations. Of her mother she once wrote, “She taught me not to worry about the things you can’t change, but never walk away from those you can.” As a reporter Lois seeks to help the world through her writing on family policy and research. She seeks answers about how to build stronger homes and tighter, better communicative families. I hope she will help us today look inside ourselves and others and see if we like what we find there. Lois welcome to the Church News podcast.

Lois Collins: Hi, Sarah. Thanks.

2:29

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, let’s start. I’m so interested in your family. Tell me about your growing up years.

Lois Collins: So, you have to start by knowing that to me they were totally normal and people think that it’s really odd to have parents who are both blind, but I grew up knowing that mommy’s eyes were broken. So, there were things that she couldn’t do, but most things she could do and I didn’t really think about it too much and the same with my dad. My dad could see until he was about six. He started going blind. He had Glaucoma back in the 1920s and by the time he was 13 he was totally blind, but he at least had a frame of reference for what seeing meant, because he had seen things and the last years that he could see he looked through his grandfather’s eight-power binoculars, if you can imagine, to bring things closer, but my mom had never seen and so I still think about that. I think about, how do you explain color to someone who’s never seen color and my mom loved purple and yellow. She just loved what she read about them. She was very well read. She loved kind of the sense that she got when she touched a flower and somebody said, “That’s a yellow rose” and she thought they smelled the best and stuff. So, she had her own unique sense of color, but I’m thinking if you’ve never touched an elephant, how do you describe an elephant to somebody who’s blind? And so, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much trickier it was for them than maybe I expected, because it was normal to me. I didn’t think anything of the fact that my parents were blind. I got the car more than other people. That was kind of cool, but it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I really thought about, how would I do this? And I think what they gave me, really, was a sense that you can do anything, that you cannot use excuses for things. My dad, if you asked him a question, he was so well read and he apparently, I think, had some sort of a photographic memory before he went blind, because he deliberately read the Encyclopedia Britannica that my grandmother had and he could still quote sections of it years later and he loved sunsets and I used to call them and describe really great sunsets to him and know that he could picture them. My mom, I never had a sunset conversation. It was totally out of her frame of reference, but she could play the piano like you would not believe. She was concert caliber. She played the violin with David Rubinoff when she was young. She won an international contest. She could do anything that anybody could do except for drive.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Credit: Collins family photograph

4:53

Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow, and that probably made for a very interesting family dynamic. I think that our kids see us do things things, as far as what clothes we buy, how we present ourselves, when we go out. So much of families, it seems, may focus on outward appearance and you would never have had that.

Lois Collins: No, with one exception. My mom really, really worried that people would blame things on her being blind and so she was really concerned that we were always clean, which I wasn’t. I had this delightful habit as a kid of rolling to school. There was an area that you passed when you were walking to school that was like a little slope that you’d find in a city park and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world to roll down the hill on my way to school and then report card time would come and I’d have all these great little S’s and E’s saying that I was an excellent or satisfactory student, except for comes to school neat and clean. Believe it or not, they used to mark that on your report card and my mom was like, “People think you don’t come to school neat and clean, because I’m blind,” and it’s like, “Well just tell them it’s because I rolled down the hill.” So, she was concerned about that kind of thing. My mom was really fastidious in her appearance and eventually, I had to stand for inspection and then I was expected to arrive at school the way I started, but most of the time, how you looked didn’t matter. Color did not matter. We never, I never, you know, my parents were incapable of saying that that person is Black, or that person is Asian, or that person is whatever, it just did not matter and maybe that’s why I grew up and married a Native American. It just does not matter.

6:29

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and it actually, probably made it either easier or harder as you brought friends home, because they could see things in them that you couldn’t see.

Lois Collins: Oh, totally. My mom, it was real interesting. I used to get mad at my mom, because she would sometimes say, there’s something wrong with this person, I wouldn’t trust him. I don’t think they have your best interests at heart and you know, it’s every kid’s teenage limit, “Oh, mom,” you know and she was always right about that, she just was, but my mom was also someone who taught me not to get hung up on the superficial things that you can see in people, but to try to be more discerning and to look for their intent and their heart and their soul and that was what my mom could see better than anybody I ever knew.

7:17

Sarah Jane Weaver: And then she raised kids who value education, who value the family. You grew up and became someone who has dedicated your career to writing about the family.

Lois Collins: One of the stories that I have loved hearing you tell about your mom is when somebody was held longer than they should have been by the police and she helped get them released and then packed them a sandwich at the end.

7:26

Lois Collins: And lots of times I write about, and particularly in the past, but I most of my career has been spent writing about families in some sort of crisis or families that people might not see as real or relate to, whether they were deeply poor. We, when we see people in crisis, there’s a natural tendency to take some sort of stock of them and some sort of stock of ourselves and figure out, they’re different, so this can’t happen to me and I have spent a lot of my career, showing that people are not that different, I think; that crisis can happen to anyone and that people can be helped and that we can love each other and take care of each other and reach out to each other and to me, that’s always been really important. That’s really why I went into journalism, was because I saw people decide what my parents could and couldn’t do in their minds. It existed only in their minds. They would think to themselves, “If I were blind, I couldn’t do that. Therefore, you can’t do that. You’re not capable of doing that” and it’s just not true. We can’t set each other’s limits and so, I partly, I think, started out in journalism, because I wanted to tell the story of people that were not well understood and that maybe didn’t have a barrel of ink that they could use. The old cliche, you know, I have a barrel of ink behind me, so I can tell those stories, but it’s a matter of giving voice to people who don’t always have a voice and helping people be real to each other and I think that’s incredibly important and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do that and, a lot of the time, with people who otherwise might not have been seen fully as humans.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Credit: Collins family photograph

Lois Collins: Yeah, yeah, there was a kid that was picked up. I grew up in Idaho Falls and there was a kid that was part of my childhood, I should say, but there was a kid that was picked up passing through on suspicion of who knows what and he was never actually charged. He just kind of got lost in the jail system and my sister had heard about it from her friend and she was upset about it and she was kind of, “Mom, this is outrageous,” whatever and I don’t think she really expected mom to do anything, but my mom always did something if there was something to be done. So, mom called the jail and she asked, she said, “I just need to know,” and she knew the kid’s name, “I just need to know the name of his lawyer. I need to get in touch with him” and they’re like, hold on. We’ll call you back and about an hour later, she got a call back and said, “he’s being released, because guess what? He was really lost in the system and he did not have a lawyer” and they said, “Would you like to provide him a sandwich? We bought him a bus ticket home and we wondered if you’d like to give him some food for the road” and my mom said, “Sure would, thanks, that would be great.” That was a long, long time ago, but that was my mom in a nutshell. She never stood by if there was something she could do.

10:27

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and your father worked full time.

Lois Collins: Full time, yep, he did and my mom was his partner. So really, they worked full time, but they worked different shifts. So, he was piano tuner and he would go out and he would tune pianos, jobs that my mother had booked. So, in the evening, my dad would come home from work and he’d cook dinner, because that was when mom’s shift started, calling people. They got referrals and then in the evening she would call and book piano tuning jobs for him and he had a hired driver and so, they both worked a lot and she was his partner in every sense of the word, but yeah, he worked full time and took care of the family and we never had tons of money, at all, but we still managed to do the things if I, if there was a school trip or something. Somehow, they always scraped it together so that we could do whatever everybody else could do and when I wanted to go to Mexico when I was, I think I was a sophomore in high school, and there was this chance to do this exchange program and I wanted to go to Mexico and it would cost some money and there was no way that was in the budget. So, my mom took a paper route, a mobile paper route, and mind you, my mom was blind. So, used to joke, she was the person, blind person in the world to have a motor route. I was too young to get the motor route. She was too blind to get the motor route, but between the two of us, we could do the motor route and it was great. We’d sit side by side in the car and chat every afternoon and I’d drive up to the mailbox to the little, you know, place where you put the newspaper and she’d stuff it in and we chat some more and go on to the next house and I went to Mexico.

11:55

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, now, Lois, most of the guests we have on our Church News podcast are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are not.

Lois Collins: No, I’m not.

12:03

Sarah Jane Weaver: Talk to us about your faith and what your parents taught you about God.

Lois Collins: So, my parents were very devoted Protestants and my dad is real, to me, this is the thing that always really strikes me is that my dad was the most grateful human being on the face of the earth. I’m going to get to this a little bit roundabout, but my dad was raised mostly by his mom and his stepfather and his stepfather was not a very nice man. He was an anti role model and dad would say that he always, when he had to make a decision, he would ask himself, “What would pop do?” and then he would do the opposite, but he was the most grateful guy you ever met. So, when I say my prayers, I’ve always kind of gotten to God like I’m a street thug. You know, “Here, Lord, here’s my list of demands. I need this and I want that and give me that and do this for so and so because I said so” kind of thing and my dad’s prayers were always, “Tell me what I can do for you, Lord, and thank you for all my blessings” and he had this childhood that you would not consider blessed and yet, he married a woman that he loved for 43 years and he had four kids that he adored and he had all these blessings that he never expected he would have because of his childhood and so, part of what they taught me was that A, God is always there and sometimes His answer’s “No.” So, when God says, “No,” that’s one thing that I’ve learned myself over the years, but my dad explained it to me once he said, “When God says ‘No’ to you, there’s a reason” and later, you will come to see it as one of your greatest blessings and that has played out in my life multiple times. When I ask, or rather, demand something of God, and he says, “No” and it doesn’t happen and I always end up grateful for it or when I get really hard things, and this is something that I learned from my folks too, you get hard things in your life and they turn out to be the things that you learn from and the things that you wouldn’t change in your life, that the experiences that you went through that taught you tolerance, or patience, or kindness, or understanding that people have hard lives, because you’ve had hard moments and you’ve lived them and if you’ve never had those, you don’t learn those lessons. So, I learned that, but I think the main thing that I learned from my parents about God is that He really is wonderful and that you can count on Him and that you can turn to Him in times of trouble and that prayer is powerful. I learned all those things from my parents and I have tried really hard to live them.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her mother, Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her mother, Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Credit: Collins family photograph

14:37

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I love the fact you married later, had children later in life, but your mother did help watch your nieces and nephews.

Lois Collins: Oh, yeah, yeah, no, my mom took care of so many kids it was like a family joke. She helped raise her grandchildren. While their parents worked she took care of the kids and she used to nag me, actually, it’s a it’s kind of a funny thing that my mom wouls say, “Louis, when are you gonna get married and have kids?” and I don’t know, I was 36 when I got married and she was, my kids barely knew her, because she was older and she got Dementia and then she died when they were quite young, but she, when she was younger and when I was younger, she’d say, ‘When are you going to give me grandchildren?’ and so one day, I went to her house and I took my imaginary grandchildren with me and I spent the whole time we were reading her mail, I’d go over at least every weekend and read her mail. She and I didn’t live in the same town at that point and I’d read her mail to her and help her sort things and label things and do whatever she needed done and I spent the whole time in between intermittently saying, “Becky, put that down,” “Bobby, stop that” and at the end of the visit, my mom said, “I just love you and I love your sense of humor, but I don’t really care for my imaginary grandchildren. So, leave them home” and that was the last neighborhood about having grandchildren and then when I did get married and I called her and told her I was pregnant. She was like, “Now, this is real, correct?” So yeah.

16:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: And it seems, actually, quite hard that someone who was blind would finish their time on Earth with Dementia.

Lois Collins: Yeah, that actually was the one beef I kind of had with God. I have always struggled to kind of understand that. My mom, at the end of her life was, so she was born blind and then she became very, very, very hard of hearing and her hearing impairment was quite severe and she ended up with hearing aids and then when she got Dementia, she fiddled with things and she didn’t quite know what they were and she was as apt to eat him as put them in her ears. They were just kind of strangers to her. So, she did end up with Dementia and I thought that was really hard, but there were really tender sweet moments in that too. I decided early on that I was just going to go along for the ride. There were people close to my mom who tried hard to kind of pull her back like we could just wish it away, “Don’t you remember? blah, blah” and it was pointless. So, my mom had played the piano her whole life and she was fabulous at it and she had played since she was five and at the end of her life she could still play beautifully and so, in the memory care unit where she was they would have replayed the piano and sometimes she’d say, “Ah, these concerts are so grueling. I’m just sorry, I made it so big and music” and you know, those are joyful, little funny moments. We have funny, funny moments with both the mom that was and with the mom that was kind of a fake mom and I loved them both and I still kind of struggled to know why at the end of her life, she had that burden, as well, but I also got my very best compliment ever out of it. I had been out of her mind for years. She had, probably for three years, not really. I was the youngest child and I was the first one to slip away, which is what happens with Alzheimer’s and one day I was visiting her and she had no idea who I was. She was just talking to me and she was always really sweet and out of the blue ahe said, “You know who you’d like? You’d like my daughter, Lois. She’s a keeper” and for just a minute, I was there and I got a really nice compliment. My mom loved me to the very end, so.

18:15

Sarah Jane Weaver: It’s really beautiful. We’ve talked a lot about your mom, tell us a little more about your dad and the lessons you learned from him.

Lois Collins: So, my dad was, I started to say this and I interrupted myself. I go crazy when I talk about my parents, because I was so blessed to have the parents I had, but my dad, you never asked him anything unless you really wanted to know the answer, because he knew everything and he was willing to take the time to engage with you and share that knowledge. So, one day I asked him how a car clutch worked and we crawled into the car together and disassembled the clutch so he could show me how a car clutch worked. The boys had to learn to cook and sew and girls had to learn all the things that the boys had to know about cars. So, we were not allowed to use our driver’s licenses until we could change a tire, we could check the oil, we could do all those things that you really need to survive and it was it was uniform. It was nongendered. We all just had to learn all of it, because who knew what we we’re gonna do with our lives, but one day I asked my dad, and it was just a random question. My mother loved cottage cheese and pineapple and she’s sitting there eating a bowl of cottage cheese and pineapple and I said, “Hm, I wonder how they make cottage cheese?” and within about 15 minutes the ingredients were assembled including the lemon juice to speed up the souring process to make it curdle and we made cottage cheese. That was just to my dad was. My sister years later told me that she remembered, really well, a time when her balloon popped and she took it to my dad and he would not fix it and she said I knew he could. He just didn’t want to, because dad could fix anything. He was also someone who would, I would sit on his lap, even as an adult, and watch a sad movie with him and we’d pass the Kleenexes around, because he was just the most tender-hearted person. Mom was less emotional than my dad by quite a bit. He was a cry baby and I’m a cry baby and I got it from him and I wear it proudly, because it’s something I got from him.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her father, Frank Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins spoke about her father, Frank Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Credit: Collins family photograph

20:15

Sarah Jane Weaver: And when you think about your family and the stability, and the love, and the grace that came from that home, and now you’ve written about so many other families, what are some of your most memorable articles or the most memorable families that you’ve written about?

Lois Collins: So, probably one of the families that means the most to me in my entire career is a family that had four generations of Huntington’s disease. That’s one that attacks you physically and it attacks you mentally and it has been compared, in some ways, to having a combination of Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at the same time. It’s rough and it hits people differently. So, some people are more severely affected, or younger, when they’re affected, than others, but this family let me in and let me tell their story and it was at a time when rules were just changing as far as preexisting conditions. There were a lot of things that I could explore in the story. It wasn’t just a family in crisis trying to figure out. With Huntington’s, you don’t know you have it. It’s lots of people, you know, there’re drinking problems and mental illness that people think are drinking problems and mental illness and it’s really Huntington’s at the root of it and so, people don’t necessarily know until they have their own kids and each kid has a 50% independent chance of inheriting the Huntington’s. So, you really don’t know and by the time you find out you have it you’ve already had kids and you’re wrestling with what their future is going to be and if they’re going have it and that kind of thing and this family was extremely open about the challenges, but at the time, they were going through a process of some of the younger members of the family, were doing some gene testing to see what their future would be and it was scary. So, they let me explore the question of, “Do you want to know? What’s that going to do to your ability to get insurance in the future? How are you going to cope with it? What happens with survivor guilt when you find out that you’re the kid that doesn’t have it and your brothers and sisters do?” that kind of thing. It was just a really rich story and a really generous family that I have loved now for 20 years, literally kept track of and loved, because they were so generous in sharing their story. There have been so many people who have allowed me to tell stories. There’s an older woman that I’m incredibly fond of who I was doing a story about how to grow old well and there’s an art to it and part of the art, I’ll give you the 30 second version of the art to growing well. So, one thing I’ve learned is that you have to stay engaged, but you also have to have friends of all ages, because your friends die. You know, as people live in normal, long lifespan, people die and you want to be engaged and you want to stay active and you, frankly, want somebody who’s willing to pick you up and take you to lunch once in a while. So, I did a story of these two women and as I was interviewing them, one was Norman Matheson, who was very active to the very end. The former governor’s wife was just, so incredible and did everything in the world and still went to book club in her 80s and still gave talks and went to plays and everything else and the other woman who was absolutely just as lovely, but had aged differently had been an athlete when she was younger and she had worn out some of her muscles and her bones and she was less mobile and she was less sociable and she was more shy and she spent a good portion of her old age coloring and as I wrote that story, I realized that she had to be willing to let me say that or it wasn’t a true story. I had to be able to contrast the way these two women were growing old and I said to her, “Betty, I want to tell the story, but I don’t want to embarrass you” and she said, “I know, I’m not growing old as well as I might have been. Maybe somebody else will look at it will do a better job” and she let me tell that story. So, I think what we could do, if we’re telling personal stories, is we rely on the generosity of people to open up their lives and to let us tell the tender moments and the things that are a little bit sensitive and the things that you wish you’d done differently. If they let you not gloss it over, and if you don’t gloss it over, then people benefit from hearing the story. So, I’ve always tried to be kind and I’ve always tried to never surprise someone with the details that I want to use if they’re sensitive, but I have asked people my entire career to let me tell their tender stories too and they’ve been kind enough to let me and that means the world to me and so I tend to keep people, because they’re worth keeping. They’re good people to keep.

25:09

Sarah Jane Weaver: We just wrote a Church News story on a delightful graduation speech that a young woman at Farmington High School gave and she said that she’s a collector of friends.

Lois Collins: Yep, yep

25:21

Sarah Jane Weaver: So, I’m assuming that you are also a collector of friends.

Lois Collins: And my mom was a great collector of friends. My mom could take a train ride somewhere and talk to someone for a few minutes and they exchanged addresses and they wrote each other letters and my mom got Christmas cards from probably 800 people every year. She was a collector. So, I come from a line of collectors. I don’t know that I can claim it is my thing. I think it might be a legacy thing.

25:49

Sarah Jane Weaver: And before we started this podcast interview, we were talking and Lois said that one of her favorite stories is a story that nobody read about pedestrian safety. Tell us tell us about that.

Lois Collins: Yeah, no, truthfully, it was a story that when I proposed it, my editor rolled her eyes and said, “Yuck, nobody will read it” and she was very, she had great premonition on that one and we have a real pedestrian safety problem here and it’s not all the pedestrians’ fault and it’s not all the drivers’ fault, either. It’s just not, people are not aware of how limited visibility is at certain times of day. I’m riding my bike or I’m walking down the street or in a parking lot or whatever and I looked down and I can see me just fine and I assume that other people can see me and there’s a lot of science to how poorly people can see at night and how far they can see and how fast they can stop their cars. So anyway, I went and I took a deep dive into personal stories of people who had been hit. I had help from transportation department. We talked about safety measures, like why a roundabout might be a good thing. I, personally, hate roundabouts. I do not like them at all, but I’m more tolerant of them now that I know that they kind of calm traffic. They demand that you focus and so they bring people back to the reality of driving, which is important. We talked about why some intersections have those weird crosswalks, like we have in front of Triad Center, that zigzag and it’s, again, an actual safety feature, although it just looks kind of weird. Why can’t I cross the street straight? Why do I have to form a Z? And I talked to people who had lost someone. I talked to a girl who was 17 years old who was hit about how her life had been changed, but one of the best people that I talked to was a guy who actually taught me the math to figure out how far you could see it, how fast you could go and stuff and we did a lot of graphics that sort of explain that and then the Utah and a fatalities group, and I’m blanking on their name, because I’m talking too much and thinking too little, actually did a video that showed people emerging from the dark and if everybody saw that video, people would be much more careful as pedestrians and as drivers, because you’re looking down the street and you think you’re seeing a little reflector on a sign or something and suddenly it emerges right in front of you, you know, two car lengths away and it’s a human being and when you see that, that stops you. So, I was really proud of that article, because I think that the seven people who read that article, four of them were in my family, actually learned something and I got a lot of well, I got a lot of, yeah, I did not, I got a handful of emails from the seven people who read it who said, “Wow, I had no idea and I’m going to pay attention to that. “So, it’s kind of a classic starfish on the beach, you can’t save all the starfish, but you can save the one that you’re tossing in the water. I like to think that maybe we saved four or five starfish, but I am really proud of that article. I think that it was a service and if nothing else, my family and I discussed what I was learning as we went along enough that I probably, maybe saved my children from some danger that they might have faced.

Mary Collins and her grandsons

Mary Collins and her grandsons

Credit: Collins family photograph

29:04

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I want to go back to where we started this podcast and talk about the pandemic. You know, we mentioned at the very beginning that as the pandemic began to unfold, we were all in our homes and we were all isolated and we all felt lonely and we did have time, to sort of, think about what was important and we had time to reflect inward and then things started to shift and we sensed some incivility in society. We dealt with racial tensions. It felt like a confused time and a time of worry and a time of economic instability and, and so many things. What have you learned about families in the past two years?

Lois Collins: So first up, you’re speaking in the past tense, “It felt like” and I would say that it still feels that way, that we haven’t emerged yet from that kind of confusing state. One thing I learned about families is that people went through it differently, but a lot of families really did enjoy reconnecting in a way that they hadn’t been able to. So, there were a lot of families that spent some time together, that went for walks, that paid closer attention, parents paid closer attention to their kids schoolwork and to their concerns and they had more time together, they had less commutes. So, there was a real plus side for some families and there were some families that felt wildly isolated and they could all be home together, even, and still ride the pandemic out differently. So, one thing that I’ve learned about families, and it wasn’t necessarily from the pandemic, but I think that the pandemic pointed out the importance, is that one of the best ways to really know what’s going on in your kid’s life is to have side-by-side conversations, where it’s not a formal conversation, but where you’re cooking dinner together, or making lunch together, or you’re sitting side-by-side in the car and you’re just talking and it doesn’t feel like you’re grilling your kid and the kid doesn’t feel threatened. Even the lack of eye contact is a little bit good in these kinds of conversations and you can learn things about each other that are monumental through these casual doing-things-together conversation and that is something that I think that the pandemic increased. More families had those kinds of conversations, where they were maybe cleaning the house together or setting up a little area to study or whatever. So, those were good things. I think the pandemic itself, because people were so contentiously divided in terms of things like masks, or in terms of things like whether vaccinations were a good idea, I think we sort of set aside some respect for public health and for other things. I think in those families, we may have confused kids, because it’s not as clear what you can believe and what you can trust and I think that that’s been a little bit hard for families and I’m not saying all of the concerns are wrong, either. I’m just saying that it’s been confusing for kids and I think that to some degree, it may have been confusing for parents. Other things about the pandemic, I think we’ve learned that we’re way more resilient than we think. One of the things every year, we do the American Family Survey and it’s this fabulous survey and we spent a year and a half, two years, probably two editions, really focusing heavily on what happened in the pandemic and we learned in this time of turmoil and political contention, where people are like, “I’m right, you’re wrong and the other guy might be the enemy.” We learned that family life is very similar, regardless of your political ideology. We learned that people love their kids passionately, for the most part, and it doesn’t matter what your political bend is, or, or how you feel about masks or vaccinations or whatever. At the heart of it, you want the best for your kids and I think the one thing that we could probably do a little bit better is just want the best for everybody. If we all just decided that we were going to give people the benefit of the doubt that we weren’t going to question their motives, even if we disagreed, we would believe that they really wanted the best for the country or for the city or for whatever arena they’re playing in, the school or whatever, then we’d be a little bit better off and I think that that’s something that the pandemic showed, too, but we have to live it not just think that, maybe we should give each other the benefit of the doubt.

33:31

Sarah Jane Weaver: And that sort of brings us full circle, because it’s actually looking beyond first impressions, looking beyond outward appearances, and seeing somebody for something that’s inside of them.

Lois Collins: Oh, if you looked at me, you would totally misjudge who I am. You would totally misjudge who I am and I think that I totally misjudge people all the time, even now, based on a lot of superficial things. There are people that you get a first impression of and you kind of make a decision and that’s okay. That’s human nature, but if you don’t allow room to change that impression of someone, then you miss a wonderful story and people have wonderful stories that we’re missing all the time, because we’re closing ourselves off. We’re deciding we know their story. There were so many people who thought that my parents couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that, who missed seeing what my parents could do and I think we just need to spend a little bit more time believing that people can do wonderful things and that people are wonderful.

34:31

Sarah Jane Weaver: And that brings us to where we always end our podcasts. We end with the same question and we always give our guests the last word. So, I’m gonna turn the microphone over to you and have you answer the question, “What do you know now?” and so, Lois, what do you know now that you learned from your parents?

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins, top left, spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Deseret News family policy reporter Lois Collins, top left, spoke about her parents, Frank and Mary Collins, on the Church News podcast, released June 28, 2022.

Credit: Collins family photograph

Lois Collins: I know that I can make a difference one person at a time. I know that God is real and He’s wonderful and He loves me even when I mess up and maybe He loves me a little more, because I need it when I mess up and I know that life cannot be scripted, that you can have all sorts of plans for how things are going to go and what you’re going to do and what you’re going to accept and not accept and who you’re going to love and who you’re not going to love and all these things and there really is no script. Life happens and if you roll with it, if you’re resilient, then everything that you would have, in your script, considered a misstep turns out to be a great part of the journey. I learned that. I learned that from my parents, but I also learned that from the life that they gave me and the foundation they gave me. So, I guess my last word is, it’s a pretty great world and everyday I’m surrounded by wonderful people, many of whom I disagree with politically, in some ways on some, you know, in their thinking uncertain things, they’re just kind of missing the mark, but I always can find, if I care about myself, I need to take the time to look at people and find the pieces of them that I can love, because you can’t love too much and you can’t get too much love back and that’s my last word.

36:20

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host church news editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guest, to my producer Kelly and Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on thechurchnews.com

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