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Semyon Gabay: "It Is Normal to Help Others"

We begin to introduce the volunteers of the «Magen Mishpaсha» NGO to our readers. Semyon Gabay is the head of the Public Enquiries Department of the NGO and is a member of the Audit Commission. «If there is at least one person left in the world capable of doing good, then everything is not lost,» he says. 

His eyes are clear and intelligent, his speech in Russian is beautiful and impeccable, and his smile is charming. He easily cites Pushkin and Blok, Akhmatova and Pasternak and many others. His 11-volume set «Super-masterpieces of Russian poetry» includes a volume of «All the secrets of happiness», in which poems of Russian poets on this theme are collected. He wants to go to Bhutan, because this is the only country in the world which has the Ministry of Happiness, and dreams of a time when the whole world will unanimously celebrate the International Day of Happiness, proposed by the King of Bhutan and approved by the decision of the UN General Assembly. So, meet Semen Gabay, 82, a volunteer of the “Magen Mishpacha” NGO.

— Semyon, how much did the help of “Magen Mishpacha” NGO in your situation affect your desire to become a volunteer yourself?


— It played its part, because I consider it necessary to pay good for good. However, it is not the only thing which has affected my choice. I have already provided before and still am providing possible help to people. In my opinion, a person must help others, in spite of all. I have always been convinced of this. In Tashkent there was such a case when a tramp, whom I warmed, fed and kept at home, once nearly killed me. 


— Did it not scare you off?

— No, it didn’t – I proceeded with helping him, just took some precautions. The last thing I'm inclined to consider is that Keren (the head of “Magen Mishpacha” NGO) helped me, and that is why now I have to help her. I help simply because a normal person should help others. I do not see much difference in the reasons, nevertheless, the good must be remembered necessarily. I enjoy the things I am doing. 

Let us take, for example, my volume «All the secrets of happiness.» It will be very pleasant for me, if people read it and have fun. I've already been told by five or six people that they really like reading it. It makes me happy too.

— What, in your opinion, is the main idea of volunteering? Desire to help? Pleasure from what was done? Praise and gratitude from other people? 

— You know, I has just been thinking about it recently, and I discovered a simple thing, but a very deep one, too. I will give an example: the harmony of beauty — is of cosmic origin. The same thing is with volunteering, in my opinion. When we do good — we do not just help other people, we still — no matter how lofty it sounds — as far as possible restore cosmic harmony. Our need to do good comes from the same source, and this, in my opinion, is what makes the world go round.

Today it is often said that people have lost their ability to do good, that traditional values are lost, etc. Yes, there are many terrible things happening, but I have thought it over and decided for myself — if in the world there remains at least one person capable of doing good, then not everything is lost.

— Do you think there are more good people or bad people in the world? 

— There are a lot of people in the world who want to do good in completely different forms, for various reasons. For example, there are a lot of very rich people who are engaged in charity in one form or another. Here is the billionaire who deals with computers (most likely, it is Bill Gates — Yu.K.). He donated about 90 million dollars to help children in Africa. This is good, it is commendable, and he has his own reasons. It happens that a person thinks about good deeds, if he once did an unseemly act, and after a time, having changed, he wants to redeem it in such a way. Often people turn to volunteering — in one form or another — after going through difficult circumstances of life, having felt a lot of the pain themselves. Now they want to help people in a similar situation.

But from my point of view, they all have something in common — they feel a certain presence of a special power, which, in one way or another, «brought them» to the desire to help. They are embarrassed if they have everything they need and more, and some do not. Because, from the human point of view, it is a moral offense to have everything and not to give at least a part to those who need it.

In the world now there is a huge amount of evil — there are wars, people are dying, someone is being tortured, someone is dying of hunger. And for a normal person, a person who has felt the influence of this particular power, it is felt as an offense — not to try to bring to this world some more good and at least slightly restore that very harmony.

— Semyon, but how did you come to such conclusions? How did you start thinking about volunteering, as a part of cosmic, universal harmony, if you like?

— To tell you the truth, it began in my youth. When I got interested in the theory of the origin of the world, I started realizing that the universe is a complex system, with a huge number of interrelations between its elements. And you begin to understand that there cannot be any little things here, that everything is interconnected. And religion, music, and love are all combined to give a person a sense of happiness.

— And is your desire to help unselfishly a component of happiness for you, too?

— Not only that, but it's an important part. Happiness is all together. This is religion, music, love for nature, patriotism, love for your fellow creatures, of course. And this type of love cannot exist without an acute compassion for suffering, or, more precisely, a feeling of suffering of people around which stimulates you to do good. It is impossible to feel happy when there is so much suffering in the world. I do not say anything new, it is said in many sacred books. And the desire to do something to reduce suffering is embedded in us by our nature, by the cosmos, by our Creator – call it whatever you like.

— And are you not disappointed with the idea that even if you put all your efforts into life, after all, you still will not be able to make suffering disappear completely, that it is just a tiny drop? Does this thought not repel you? 

— No, it does not, and that's why — if even for a second, a minute, a few minutes, I was able to help someone — I do believe that I have already lived my life for a good reason.

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