The Volcano people
Long ago, on a volcanic island in the South Seas. The island was lush, green and beautiful with all the things one would need to live a safe and prosperous life. With plenty of fish in the lagoon, fruit in the trees, with lots of fresh water; living on the island was pleasant, measured and without care. The forest provided trees and vines necessary to build the huts. Rocks and boulders, from the volcano, provided obsidian for all the daily tools for the villagers to make or create, anything they might need or want. They lived in peace and were happy, well-fed and illness free.
Of course, in the back of their minds, despite their many good fortunes, they knew there were volcanos and the God of the volcano who had not spoken in many hundreds of years. But the old and wise ones kept the stories alive that there had once been an eruption that when the God of the volcano spoke. His voice had caused the people to flee their island to the sea, and it was many years before they could return. But with many of the younger ones, they did not listen. Or they thought it a great story, or it would never happen in their lifetime; it was possible, but it would not happen today.
Several nights in a row, the shaman had a disturbing vision. A vivid, terrifying premonition filled with fire, pain, destruction, and death for many who lived on this peaceful island. He called the villagers together, and he told the people that they must prepare to leave the island, very soon, before the new moon. A few of the people listened and took action immediately taking their houses down to use the wood to build boats. Once they were finished making their vessels, they began to weave great sails to capture the wind, and they started to store food and water so it could be loaded, quickly when the time came to leave. These people slept on the beach in hammocks ready to go at a moments notice.
Another larger group of people thinking that there would be the need for escape but confident that their ordeal would be tolerable. They thought would be back sooner than predicted and chose to cut new wood to build their boats but left their homes intact. The thought of packing their belongings, of food and water, never entered their minds. The slept in their homes, close to the shore and frequently thought of “if” the move would happen.
The last was a group of people heard the shaman’s message but could not or did not choose to believe the warning. Perhaps they were far too comfortable in their lives or too frightened of the prospect of having to leave so they did nothing and acted as if the shaman was wrong or had said nothing. They asked themselves and their friends, “why should they change their lives? They had always lived here. Did their parents and grandparents not live here too and it had always been safe. It wasn’t fair that the God of the volcano should want them to move, this WAS their home”. So they did nothing.
This group also chided and ridiculed the others for building boats and dismantling their homes. Telling them that they were living in fear and the distant past. The days and weeks went on with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. It seemed that the group who were busy doing nothing, may have been correct; after all. A few of the boat builders, at times, wondered that perhaps the shaman had misinterpreted the signs and all these preparations were not needed. But the still slept on the beach or in their homes close to the shore.
The Volcano God Awakens
That night the God of the volcano woke the people up by shaking the ground and rumbling the mountain. The mountain shook, coughed out smoke and breathed sparks into the air. The people on the beach, who had listened to the shaman, quickly grabbed their belongings, their food stores, and water, launched their boats into the sea and rowed as hard as they could toward the closest island on the horizon.
The other group with boats, ran from their houses, grabbing what belongings they could, the food and water they had on hand, boarded their ships
and rowed toward the closest island on the horizon. The villagers wondered if they had enough food and water to make it, but resolved if they did go to the new island, they would somehow survive.
The group that chose to do nothing discovered that it was far too late to build boats, so they gathered what food and water they had and left all their belongings because there was no room to carry it. Some struck out on small fishing boats; others quickly felled trees or ripped doors off local huts and leaped into the water leaving family members behind to fend for themselves. Some of the people were trampled and injured their ships great fighting and loss of life. Many just stood on the shore feeling angry that this was happening to them and talked loudly of how it was not fair for the God of the volcano to do this now.
Just Keep Rowing
The people in the boats just kept rowing toward the horizon. The people on the shore called and pleaded with the people in the ships to come back and help them, but the Shaman told them, "don't stop, just keep rowing." The vessels just kept moving toward the distant island on the horizon. At some point, the bitter cries for help; were silenced.
When the God of the volcano exploded the mountain early in the morning just before sunrise, everything on the island was incinerated by the heat or covered with 50 feet of molten ash and lava. The people, in the two groups of boats, knew their island home was gone, maybe not forever, but for now. Perhaps, in a few years, scouts could return to see if the island was habitable again. The people in the boats kept rowing and stopped looking back; there was nothing to see anymore.
Once the boats were several days away from the fire and ash, the wise few slowed their ships down to allow the larger group with little food and water could catch up to them. It took more than a day, those men in the boats with little food or water had less strength to keep up the pace of the ships with plenty.
At last, they caught the first group and soon all the boats were lashed together forming a great ship from the many parts. It was then the order was given to raise the masts and rig the sails. Once the large sails filled with the wind the rowers could finally stop and rest; it was an easy matter to sail the large ship even though it had many parts.
The Island Disappears
The people watched in awe as their old world still burned in the distance and they were grateful that a few had taken the time to think through what had been needed for all to survive. More time passed, and the site of the burning island was at the edge of the horizon and sinking slowly back into the ocean. The villagers knew the ordeal was almost over and they would arrive at their new home, with the sunrise.
Upon their arrival, the ritual of thanks was performed, and the people began the process of settling into their lives once again. The ships now, dismantled, and houses rebuilt, the land was tilled and planted for new crops to had to be planted since their provisions were getting low. Slowly, the people created a new life on their new island.
The years passed, crops harvested, babies were born, and memories began to fade about what had happened on the old island. The people had taken time to reflect about their ordeal. They frequently thought about friends, relatives, dreams, and goals that disappeared. Some began to wonder what might have happened if they had gone back to the shore to try to help those who were caught unprepared by their inaction. Some were sad, and some were angry that no one, not even themselves, had gone back to rescue anyone. It was at this time that the shaman suggested that they have a feast to honor the dead and celebrate the bounty of their new home.
The festival, suggested by the Shaman, moved the people to tears at the loss of so many friends and family, but it was the shaman said: “grieve them not." Had any one of you returned to the shore, in their panic; you may not have survived the frenzy. You or your family may have been drug from your boat and left to die. You would not be here now to mourn the dead and celebrate our new life on this island; you would be one of them.
Stay In Your Boat
Sometimes it's difficult to stand by and watch people struggle but stay in your boat. You can be compassionate or empathetic, but you cannot help someone who does have the time or the foresight to build their boat or gather provisions for their trip. You could, if you choose to, feed and give water those who made their craft too late or poorly. You can help people if they request it. You can provide the rope to lash together the ships or sails so the rowers can rest, but never risk your life or your family’s safety for those standing still on the shore, who are not ready to change, regardless of the signs, when it’s time to leave your island and live.
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