My three amazing teenagers, unique from each other in many ways, are all worthy of love, health, happiness, and the same freedoms and liberties. My healthy teenagers are no less worthy than their special-needs sister.

Yet, here I see a lot of well-intended individuals making some incredibly flawed arguments for government overreach and medical mandates in the name of protecting vulnerable populations. These are the same arguments I counter every single day in my work: that in order to safeguard their sister Ashlyn, Noah and Grace must hand over their liberties.

Of course, as her family, there are enormous sacrifices we willingly make for Ashlyn, sacrifices much more significant than any government could ever mandate. So, why hand over our rights for a false sense of security?

As the parent of a complex-care child, every day I have to weigh the risk/benefit ratio of every single outing we do with her. Sometimes it’s worth it; sometimes it’s not.

Let’s take a recent event we went to: Night to Shine. After successfully traveling on an airplane just weeks prior, avoiding any sickness or problems, Night to Shine was all but a disaster for Ashlyn. She got incredibly sick for an extended period. It was probably because I was not next to her, cleaning her hands every five minutes like I normally do during our travels.

The illness then passed from her to her grandmother and sister. It took several weeks for everyone to recover fully. In hindsight, after such a successful January, I probably should have known better than to think we would have a calm February.

With all that said, I think it is incredibly vital now more than ever that we dig deep in our compassion for our friends and neighbors in how each of us is responding to this coronavirus chaos.

Let’s set aside our accusations that our neighbors are doing it wrong. Let’s think about the unintended consequences of trusting someone else to do it right for us. And let’s also remember that each of us handles and copes with crises in our own way.

As a special-needs parent myself, I have the same language of virtually every complex caregiver out there: extreme sarcasm and an uncanny ability to find humor even in some of life’s most difficult circumstances. We seem to have this basic understanding that each good day is a gift. Bad days are to be expected, and ultimately much about our lives—despite our best efforts—is simply out of our control.

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Jackie Schlegel

Jackie Schlegel is the executive director of Texans For Vaccine Choice.