Finding God on Gannon’s campus

Remaining steadfast in the moments as a student leader



Justin Johnson holds many roles on campus, including being resident assistant at North Hall.

Justin Johnson

As a theology and social work student, I think a great deal about the human person. For my theology senior thesis, I essentially researched and wrote about how to respond to people whose values clash with your own. How are we called to treat people who did not live the same faith as us?
After citing 26 sources, 99 in-text citation, 27 pages and countless hours on a computer, I came to conclude something extraordinarily basic. In the end, we are called to treat people as human beings with dignity and worth. I think such a message gets lost in the day to day. The call to love everyone, regardless of how they treat you, is one of the hardest lessons to bring into our reality.
As a senior, you slowly have to begin saying goodbye to the things you have enjoyed the most for the past four years. A few weeks ago, I was asked by a staff member, of all the things that I am involved in what are the things I am most passionate about. The staff member commented that my face lit up when I gave my response, “I love being an RA.”
For the past three years, I have had the privilege of serving as a resident assistant in both first-year and upperclassmen halls. It has been one of the most challenging, exhausting, rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life.
Although I am in a position of authority, they are still my neighbors and community. In being an RA, there are somethings that are sacrificed for the work you do. You give up living in a hall with your friends. Your privacy becomes a foreign concept as you are constantly living where you work.
When you are on-call, every sound that comes from your phone makes you hyper vigilant as you prepare yourself for whatever situation may be awaiting you. I have seen residents be transported to the hospital. I have sat with residents experiencing a serious mental health crisis. I have done everything in my power to comfort residents who have just lost one of the most important people in their life. I spent hours on my bulletin boards this year because I knew that nearly all of my incoming first-year students had gotten their senior year of high school cut short.
If these bulletin boards had the opportunity to brighten a resident’s day, I was going to ensure that such a potential was met. These experiences, whether big or small or positive or negative, challenged me to live out that lesson of love.
I see God in my residents every day. I have seen God in them for the past three years. I see God in all my residents, even those who do not believe in God. Even when they call me at 3 a.m. because they locked themselves out of their room. Even when they tear down a part of the bulletin board. Even when I ask them to be quiet for the sixth time that night. I know I love being an RA because I have done things for my residents that cost me something.
It is not too difficult to love when things are good. But when you learn to see God in every person, when you see the person as a human being, all you can do is love. I get to see God as I watch my residents learn and grow.
As an RA, I get to celebrate my residents’ successes with them. I have the opportunity to hear their stories. I have the honor of sitting with them in the hallway late into the night laughing and just enjoying each other’s presence. Words will never fully express what being an RA has meant to me. It taught me to find God in the little moments every day, as it is often these simple moments that we will miss the most.
To all my residents, past and present, you have showed me God just by being you, and for that I am forever grateful.

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