University City

Path to new beginnings is one step at a time

If you live long enough, chances are that, at some point in life, you will deal with some issue related to forgiving yourself or forgiving others.

Countless situations can arise with family, friends and even strangers where forgiveness becomes a major factor. Starting off a new year with a new attitude of forgiveness can be life-changing.

Sayif Sanyika has a unique story to share about forgiveness. At age 70, he walked from Charlotte to Boston to honor the blessing of forgiveness and to complete a 45-year healing process.

You may wonder what would lead a person to take such a journey.

At age 20, he stabbed and killed someone in a Boston street fight. (Sanyika prefers never to use his former name again.) The entire situation was tragic. Another person, who was innocent, was also incarcerated for the crime.

"I apologized to the family at the trial," said Sanyika. "They never came before the parole board."

He said he was advised never to contact the victim's family.

After serving almost a decade in prison, Sanyika worked hard to build a normal life. He was able to get a high school diploma in prison. Upon his release, he attended Boston University and the School of Fine Arts.

He earned a doctorate in theology, then had a variety of successful work experiences. He taught organizational development at Roxbury Community College in Boston. He also taught logic, theater and human growth and development at Boston University Metropolitan School.

In Boston, he worked for the mayor's office and also as a counselor, an adjunct faculty member and assistant to a college president. Later he directed a prison mental health program in New York City.

Seven years ago, Sanyika moved to the University City area to enjoy what he calls "a better quality of retirement."

Ever since his conviction and imprisonment, Sanyika has been on a path of seeking forgiveness. In spring 2010 he and a few others founded a nonprofit organization called "Heal Self - Heal America."

"The goal of the organization is to assist others and ourselves to live happier, healthier more abundant and longer lives," Sanyika said. The group plans to offer seminars, workshops, health screenings and more. A statement on the organization's website says, "We believe through present moment awareness, conscious intentions, open loving hearts and loving behavior, we have the power to change or lives."

"The major goal of my walk to Boston was to get personal healing and forgiveness of self and others," Sanyika said. "I feel like it's all behind me. I can talk about it, and I'm not afraid of it. I'm living in the now.

"It wasn't about the distance," Sanyika said. "It was about taking the time and getting clarity. It was just me, nature and God."

He believes his story was a personal lesson and one to share with others.

Sanyika is a spiritualist and attends the Center for Spiritual Living, part of the International Centers for Spiritual Living founded by Ernest Holmes.

Sanyika speaks with passion as he describes the amazing experiences he had during the walk to Boston. Including detours and shortcuts, it was in the neighborhood of 1,000 miles, he said.

His biggest challenge was blistering feet. He walked during the daytime and stayed in hotels in the evenings. When he finished, his family and friends hosted two receptions for him in Boston, and he was presented a resolution from the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts before he flew back to Charlotte.

Sanyika encourages people to take a walk to think about their own lives. It doesn't have be the kind of walk he took.

"Philosophically, each step heals any transgression from the past," said Sanyika. A published author, he believes to have a healthy life, we have to watch what we read, eat and watch on television. "We have to be vigilant about what we put in our mind and our body."

This is the time of year we look for new beginnings, or things to change about ourselves. Each of us will have a different life journey.