This month, my book club read ‘The Martian’, by Andy Weir. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it, but was soon gripped by the story. It recounts the fictional endeavour to rescue an astronaut left stranded on Mars, a mission which takes over a year, involving the equipment and intelligence of space agencies from different countries. At the end of it all, the lone astronaut ponders the vast expense undertaken in the attempt to save one solitary life: millions of dollars and immense sacrifice, both personal and professional, from countless people. He asks himself why anyone would bother, and concludes that every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out.

The story reminded me at times of the John Lewis Christmas advert, the one with the man on the moon. He cut a lonely figure but, as we all know, you don’t have to be alone on the moon or Mars to experience great loneliness and isolation.

I wonder how much each one of us would sacrifice to save a life? As a fundraiser, clients thanked me for saving their life, through raising the funds needed to run the treatment programme. As a teacher, students thank me for changing their lives. Arguably though, this is me just doing my job.

So how, in St Albans, can we make a difference? It could be a phone call that saves a life, or a home cooked meal, but it may take more. How much are we prepared to sacrifice?

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