It is January 2023.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday. Credit: Library of Congress

The month of January has several titles, including Celebration of Life Month, National Poverty in America Month, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

There are many celebratory days in January, including:

  • Jan. 8 – War on Poverty Day;
  • Jan. 9 – National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day;
  • Jan. 10 – Peculiar People Day;
  • Jan. 11 – National Human Trafficking Awareness Day;
  • Jan. 13 – Korean American Day;
  • Jan. 15 – Humanitarian Day;
  • Jan. 16 – Religious Freedom Day and
  • Jan. 16 —–Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire).

I embraced the title “Peculiar People Day” after an interaction with a woman at a UPS store.

A woman being waited on in front of me wanted to buy some stamps. The clerk told her that the UPS store only sold books of stamps. I did not hear whether the woman did not have enough money for a book of stamps or that she just did not want a book, but she turned away from the counter.

As she walked near me on her way to the exit, I said, “Miss, I have some stamps. How many do you need?” She said she needed three. I reached into my purse and gave her the end panel of a book of stamps that held four stamps.

IIsaac Asimov, a prolific author of science fiction and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. Credit: Library of Congress

“I only need three stamps,” she repeated as she tried to tear one stamp off to give back to me.

“No, no, don’t do that,” I said, “Please just take the stamps and have a nice holiday.”

At first she just gave me a puzzled look, but she then thanked me, kept the four stamps and left the store.

Payment for the stamps did not come up. I wondered then and now why she was so resistant to accepting the extra stamp. Was it that she did not have enough money for four stamps or was it that she did not want to accept charity above and beyond her needs. Hmm. Humans.*

Jan. 2 is the accepted birthday of Isaac Asimov (1920-92), a writer of science and nonscience, fiction and nonfiction, professor of biochemistry. One of his quotes was forwarded to me on Facebook: “When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent.”

I subsequently looked up some of Asimov’s other quotes and found the following that seemed appropriate for many people’s responses to the Covid pandemic: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

Best wishes to all for a kind year.

*Human: “Characterized by or exemplifying the strengths, weaknesses, emotions, struggles, etc., typical of man and mankind.” (Merriam-Webster)

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...

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