We exchanged letters at least thrice every year – which he loved reading and replying to. In his honour, I would like to share a few lessons I picked from our correspondences with excerpts from the letters in his own words.

Nelson Opany

Last week when going through some of my stuff in the house I came across a bunch of letters from 2003 to 2005. These were correspondences with one of my then sponsors at Starehe Boys’ Centre & School, Mr. Herman Schur. The letters are in his handwriting.

Born on 25 February 1920 in the Netherlands to Roman catholic parents, Herman got married in 1942 and was blessed with two girls and five boys. After the 1st World War in 1946, he moved to the south of Eindhoven where he worked for Philips when they had just begun to make televisions. Later in March 1952, Mr. Schur moved with his family to Canada and settled in Gananoque, Ontario.

We exchanged letters at least thrice every year – which he loved reading and replying to. In his honour, I would like to share a few lessons I picked from our correspondences with excerpts from the letters in his own words.

Lesson 1: Hard Work Never Goes Unrewarded

Herman kept reminding me how important working hard is in helping me have a better life; and that when one worked hard, they would surely get the reward they deserve. Whenever I performed well in school he would encourage and send me gifts and pocket money to motivate me to work even harder

  • “I had a good job and did not have to move from Eindhoven, but in March 1952 we moved to Canada. We had 2 girls and 5 boys, so we had to start all over and that was hard. Yes, I know what hard times are, but with hard work and willpower we made it good and all the kids are doing well.”
  • “Keep up the good work and if the good Lord leaves me here, I will support you. So long as you do your best.
  • “You said you had the money for Christmas. What about I send you 45 Canadian Dollars for a good report and your birthday?”

Lesson 2: Misfortunes are Part of Life

No matter how good you are, misfortunes will befall you from time to time. As they are bound to happen, the most important thing is not to focus on the bad things that happen but rather to find the strength to move on with life.

  • “On 15th September 1995 one of my sons died at 52 years old and on 6th December the same year, another son died aged 44. Both of them had cancer.
  • “My wife was sick for almost three years and I looked after her until she died on 2nd September 2000.”

Lesson 3: Make the Best Out of Life Today

Mr. Schur always advised me against procrastination, insisting that tomorrow is never guaranteed.

  • “I will be 85 next year and I don’t know when the Lord will be calling me.”
  • “Make use of every day, that means yesterday is gone, today we are living, we don’t know about tomorrow.”
  • “You only go through this life once, so make the best out of your life so that you don’t have to say when you are old, oh boy, if I could do it over again, it would have been different.”

Lesson 4: Stay Physically Active

At the age of 84, Herman still took time to exercise through walking and house chores. To him, staying physically active is a good way to invest in personal health and well-being.

  • “My health is good. I walk every morning for one kilometre.”
  • “As I told you my wife passed away in 2000 so I live by myself and do all the cooking and cleaning to no help.”

Lesson 5: Know and Thank God

Having been brought up in a Christian family, Mr. Schur was a religious man. He encouraged me to pray every day and always be thankful for everything knowing well that there was a God who provides and cares for us.

  • “Nelson, it is important to start the day with prayers, and ask for the Lord’s blessings and before you go to bed you end it in prayer and thank the Lord for all the blessings you’ve received. If you do that you can’t go wrong.”

Apart from sacrificing money (possibly his pension) in old age to pay for my education, Herman showed a lot of concern for me. He also prayed for me as he wrote in one of his letters, “May God give you the strength and wisdom so you can accomplish your goals.”

Unfortunately, we lost contact after high school and God forgive me, I don’t know how he is doing now or whether he is still alive. If I had the chance to meet and correspond with him again, the only thing I would wish to do is tell him how grateful I am for his sacrifices and the teachings he shared with me. If I am not able to find him then I would love to connect with any of his children and let them know what a good father they had.

Comments (17)

  1. Maina Kiranga

    A great personal story with lessons to last beyond a lifetime.

    • Nelson

      Indeed, it is such simple yet profound lessons that make a man.

  2. Odima

    Great insights my friend

    • Nelson

      Thanks Odima


    These is agreat story. My reward mr. Herman. My friend its takes great humility to appreciate the impact created in onces life even after loosing contacts. Keep on the hardwork as echored by Herman.

    • Nelson

      Thank you Victone. We are all products of other people’s generosity, in one way or another.

  4. Lweya


    • Nelson


  5. Kimani Patrick

    Wonderful lessons.

    • Nelson

      Indeed, thanks

  6. Nyakwaka Juliet

    Awesome, life’s lesson in doses

    • Nelson

      Glad you find them useful

  7. Elisha Mwangala

    Man this is impressive,its one thing to be grateful but its another thing to acknowledge those who have made you to be this grateful. I pray you reconnect with this guardian angel,indeed he has left a permanent mark in your life.
    Hope i will change someone’s life too before i leave this world.i will be more than satisfied.

    • Nelson

      Thank you Elisha for your message. I hope I manage to reconnect with him – it would be such an honour. I wish you well in your quest to impact the lives of others. it is a great way to show appreciation.

  8. Joseph

    Give honour again and again to those who made you the man you are today .God bless you ten folds for such acknowledgement and greatfulness.

    • Nelson

      Thank you Joseph. Sometimes gratitude is all you can give back.

  9. Helment Matete

    This will not end for its just an overflowing stream from Herman to Nelson and radically to all of us. In here Mozambique we are quite inspired on how you replicate what you learnt from him, just imagine for the first time in life the way you volunteered those for countries from different organisations. Only Him can continue rewarding you abundantly. Keep on going being a pillar in lighting others hence you are wall builder but a bridge builder where we will pass through to find and reach out our dreams.

    My regards stuff are sufficient

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