Collective Guilt and the Health of a Nation

In 5 days I depart for Haiti with my wife. It will be our first humanitarian trip together since our wedding less than two years ago. In fact, we will celebrate our 2nd year anniversary somewhere in Haiti. 

In 10 days I will finish my applications to three highly competitive universities who will decide whether a skinny kid from south jersey with no AP credits or Ivy League logos deserves a spot in their small, customized programs. 

In about 100 days I will lead a group of students and professionals back into the heart of Haiti discussing disaster relief and the future development of Haiti. 

Sound stressful? 

It is... but I believe that is only because I don't fully understand the plight of those I wish to serve. 

makeshift cholera clinic
Currently in Haiti nearly 6,000 people have died from a completely treatable disease! Cholera runs rampant in the dirty streets of the tent cities. The U.N. continues to officially deny being the source of the cholera outbreak. For three months now I have been reading books, articles and watching documentaries about Haiti. Anything I can get my hands on and much of it leaves me saddened and discouraged. 

And yet, I have been inspired... much like the prophet Nehemiah. It is time to rebuild the walls of Haiti. And this time, we will rebuild them better. You see, to see a vision of a beautiful, growing, and prosperous country on the western end of Hispaniola is radical. It's overwhelming but it is exactly what the whole of Scripture and true religion requires... that in the place of destitution... we work towards redemption. Where we see sickness... we spend ourselves in the way of supporting health. Where we see abuse... we stick our necks out to defend the weak. I can tell you that Haitians are proud of their country and they are on the forefront of making things better. 


For many years I struggled with the concept of collective guilt. I was a fortunate soul to be born into an intact nuclear family with a middle-upper income standard of living and attend a private high school and undergraduate institution. Meanwhile, the majority of the world focuses on maintaining food, water, and shelter security. In the pursuit of purging this guilt, I sought to run from the wretchedness of wealth, riches, and the upper elitist of government and academia. To walk in the shoes of those many minimalists who live day by day on pennies... this surely would be the righteous response to my predicament. And then I met a man from Malawi. 

Robert Manda, an educated Malawian who focuses on the vulnerable populations of rural Malawi... women and children. My family has essentially adopted him into our lives. I remember one day Robert smiled and looked deliberately into the eyes of my family. He said, "I pray for God's blessing and prosperity on your family. Because when God blesses the Landons, he blesses Malawi." 

With this statement my world slowly shifted. How does one respond to the blessings of wealth, family, education and privilege? You start by being the smartest, wealthiest, and the best you can be in your field.... then you give yourself to the work of rebuilding the world better. If you are an architect, you strive for low-cost building solutions that will withstand the onslaught of hurricanes and earthquakes. If you are a doctor, you become the best doctor possible and find new strategies of health for vulnerable populations. If you are a computer geek, go help find IT solutions to increase accessibility to education via internet learning in rural villages. If you are a businessman, learn to create jobs and train the next generation that will support long-term prosperity for communities in need. Regardless of where we find ourselves or what fields we are passionate about, there is always a way to increase the quality of life for another. We must not run from our privilege but use it tirelessly for the plight of the poor. 

To be a privileged American means only one thing.... that I have the privilege to open my eyes to the sea of suffering and do something. 

Why do I go to Haiti? And why will I go to Malawi?  

Because I can... and because I must. 

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