On Top of the Hill

Sr. Gemma Doll, OP
Blog by Sister Gemma Doll, OP

What is it like sitting on top of a hill?  As children we played a game called King of the Mountain.  The United States and the Developed countries sit on top of other world economies.  Two hundred giant corporations, most of them larger than many national economies, now control well over a quarter of the world’s economic activity. When on top of the hill, one can rewrite the rules to solidify one’s position and increase even further one’s coffers.  The wealthier are getting wealthier, leaving the rest behind.

With a group of high school girls and chaperones, I spent two weeks with our Sisters in Ndola, Zambia.  Zambia is among the nations way down the hill (ranked 124 for GDP purchasing power) with no voice to protest the unfairness of trade agreements. Copper and other minerals have been privatized and are pillaged from the country to benefit the few capitalists who own the mines.  The workers lucky enough to have employment lack a path to a better life and lack protection of workers’ rights or care when injured.  Though Zambia has socialized medicine, clinics in the bush are scheduled only monthly.  Mothers and children walk miles for immunizations, nutritional supplements, and medications.  Too many die untimely deaths from malaria, measles, nutritional deficiency, HIV, and tuberculosis.

The Zambian Dominican Sisters are a bright light in the darkness.  They provide healthcare and education with compassion and dignity for each person.  They are respected by all and have received donations to enlarge the Kavu Clinic into the St. Dominic Mission Hospital.  Their secondary schools are rated the best in the nation.

Poverty doesn’t diminish the happiness factor.  Both children and adults spontaneously smiled and met me, the stranger, with openness and welcome.  Liturgies raised “Praise” to a new level with harmonies and drumming, clapping and dancing.

In the past 30 years, income inequality has widened in the US. The upper-income bracket has grown more than 100%. The middle income bracket has grown 2.3%.  The lower income bracket has actually decreased 18.4% (New York Times, Dec. 14, 2014).  And  there have been even wider changes globally.  In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis stated, “It is not in accord with God’s plan that his gift be used in such a way that its benefits favor only a few.”

Such divergence is unsustainable.  “Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro-business policies.”  “Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box.”

(Reuters 9/8/2014).  The 99% envy the 1% sitting on top of the hill.  Could income disparity explain some of the anger among US citizens today?

Posted in Just Reflecting

12 responses to “On Top of the Hill

  1. Thank you Gemma for your inspiring and thought provoking
    words. You raised my awareness of the need for sharing our resources. Blessings to the Sisters of Zambia.

  2. Good, succinct and powerful message. Keep up the good Word and we’ll try to be more committed and courageous.

  3. Gemma,
    The Zambian Dominicans are a great blessing to the planet–a great witness to what is needed. So are the Great Bend Dominicans who founded them!
    Thank you for reminding us that income divergence is unsustainable and perverse. The election campaign fund raising is particularly obscene to me in the face of so many other needs. These are important issues. Thanks for calling our attention to them!
    Mary Ellen Bennett


    1. Thanks for your comments, Mary Ellen. Just to be clear–the Great Bend Dominicans nurtured the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Nigeria, not in Zambia. We cant claim any credit for the existence of the Zambian congregation. That credit belongs to a Dominican congregation in Germany.

  4. Gemma, thanks for your information and reflection. It gives some thought for a future presentation at one of our Associate Meetings.

    God Bless


  5. Gemma, thanks for the story about you going to Zambia with some high school students. You reminded us that we, the 1% have way too much of everything, with the 99% just trying to hang on by their shirt tails. Thanks for showing us what great things the Zambian Dominican Sisters are doing. It is so important to keep our eyes open to all the good that is being done by the sisters there.

  6. I always like the way you write things to get your point across, Gemma. Here’s to Zambia, the Dominican sisters and all the good work they do in the name of humanity. Diane Traffas

  7. Gemma,
    The metaphor of King of the Mountain was descriptive and and insightful and helped to communicate your message clearly. I loved hearing about the good works of our Zambian Dominicans.

  8. Thanks, Gemma, for connecting the dots. I pray more truth-telling seeps into the US political process. I too grew up playing King of the Mountain, usually on a big, tall snow bank. And eventually it melted!

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