Small Town News


Nope, we're not so small after all

Freeman Courier of Freeman, South Dakota

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The Editor's Desk

I love a lot of things about my dad's long but fascinating story about Dr. Shakil Hafiz and his decision to bring his family practice to the health care system based right here in Freeman.

I love how it documents the journey Hafiz and his family have taken and how they wound their way to the unlikely roads of rural South Dakota and this sleepy yet energetic community nestled here on the plains. Hafiz is both well-spoken and inspiring in describing the decision to leave the Windy City of Chicago for much different breezes this side of the Midwest.

"You can get out of your comfort zone," he says. "Your humanity expands."

But I think my favorite part of the story is (spoiler alert) the very end, when Hafiz says he was surprised to see the diversity here in

Freeman. The doctor noted the different cultures represented here on our streets and in our business environment and suggests Freeman isn't as small as he first thought. No, we are not. Freeman may be strongly rooted in the traditions the founding fathers brought with them when they migrated here from Russia in the mid-18708. Much of that culture continues to thrive on a day-to-day basis through our appreciation for agriculture and the arts — specifically music. Schmeckfest, of course, pays tribute to that on an annual basis through foods, crafts and culture.

But there's much more to our community's cultural makeup today than there has ever been before. The Hispanic population has grown considerably the past decade thanks largely to employment opportunities, and the diversity represented in the student population at Freeman Academy is worthy of note.

This is outstanding.

The acceptance and understanding of people different from us is vital to community growth irregardless of where it takes place. That's not always easy, especially in a predominantly white culture that knows very well where it came from and what it stands for.

See: Germans from Russia.

I'm not suggesting for a second that the Freeman community give up the appreciation for how, when and on what foundation it has been growing since 1874. I'm not even suggesting we shy away from the celebration and promotion of that.

But we cannot be exclusive, disregarding the other cultures, practices and faiths that are represented in our wonderful community. Everyone matters. Everyone has a place. And everyone can contribute to the growth and energy that exists today, as 2015 is about to flip over to 2016.

Dr. Shakil Hafiz's comments that conclude this week's story serve as a wonderful reminder that our small town isn't so small after all.

Copyright 2015 Freeman Courier, Freeman, South Dakota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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