Lava in Hawaii: A Path Through Crisis Emerges


Just a few miles away from my old neighborhood on the Big Island of Hawaii, two new fissures crack the surface of the earth and ooze molten lava. So far, 35 structures have burned to the ground and several roads have been blocked by tarry black barricades. These fissures spit yellow and orange magma onto the nearby trees. They catch fire too, making the air smell like a gritty barbecue of roasting rotten eggs. The continued expansion of the lava implored Hawaii to declare a State of Emergency.

In times of crisis, we get tunnel vision that makes us focus on what can potentially harm us. We worry about how bad it can get. We move fast in hopes that we can stay ahead of the fallout that can happen during a crisis. When lava is engulfing your home, it is hard to believe that anything good can come from this disaster. The lava is burning away what is familiar and this can be scary.

But if we take a breath, if we take one step back, it is possible to see crisis in a new light. Going through a crisis is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Enduring the crisis alone is worse than going through it with support. The catastrophes of our lives have a way of breaking down our resistance to asking for help.

The first lesson crisis teaches us is to receive help from others. Aid often comes in ways we didn’t expect. On the Big Island of Hawaii, people are already rescuing each others’ pets who are trapped by the edge of the lava. My friend recently rescued two cats and hopes to find their owners. Clothes and food drives have come together locally. As people from the mainland U.S. and other nations watch the volcano eruption on the news, they have already begun donating to the Red Cross for disaster relief.

If we take two steps back, we realize that a devastating crisis brings us new opportunities that we wouldn’t have been able to receive in the comfort zone of our daily routines. Seeing people in need may inspire us to help others by becoming a community leader. The loss of a home may give us the motivation to accept a new position in a new place that may bring us unexpected friendships, partnerships, and career advancement. People who we haven’t talked to in years may suddenly reconnect with you. These unanticipated gifts are often inspired by struggle.

When we are stuck in a comfortable routine, we miss the opportunities that reside just outside of our comfort zone. As I talk to those who are directly impacted by the evacuation on the Big Island, they are all grateful to be alive, no matter what physical possession they may have lost. So far, there have been no deaths from the eruption of the volcano.

If we take a few more steps back from lava destruction, we can realize that these beautiful Hawaiian Islands were all formed by volcanoes, all of them connected to the same stream of magma beneath us. Big Island alone was formed by 5 volcanoes, of which only Kilauea is the last remaining active volcano is all of Hawaii. It is true that lava has destroyed homes and this loss is felt by the families directly affected. They are in our hearts and prayers. But the lava is the raw creative force that is still creating the island. Nature is just doing what is has been doing for nearly 500,000 years as it continues to make the Big Island such a fertile paradise. This is how the island grows.

As we watch the disaster of Hawaii unfold, it reminds us that we are not alone when we also go through a crisis. The most challenging moments of our lives invite support, if we share what we are going through with others.  Without revealing your struggle, others won’t know to help. You don’t have to endure your crisis alone.

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