The dark, silhouetted male figure stood motionless in the doorway of my dorm room. I lay stiffly under my bed covers—too scared to move or speak. What did he want? Why didn’t he move? Why didn’t he speak?

Then my half-asleep brain shifted into panic gear. As I prepared to let out a pathetic soprano squeal to alert the other Culver Hall residents to this crisis, he left as quietly as he had appeared.

It was the first night of my freshman year of college and already I had faced a near death experience with “the shadow man.” I dabbed the sweat on my forehead as I went to lock the door before he came back. Then it dawned on me.

From fear to friendship

“We are glad to have you here, Ricky,” Doug Tallman, dean of men at Union College, had told me earlier that day as he handed me my room keys. “You will get to meet your hall RA later tonight when he does room check.”

I stood in the darkness of my room laughing in spite of myself. The shadow man was my RA, my resident assistant. Over the next few weeks I became great friends with him. He befriended me and all the other men on his hall with such genuineness that by the end of the school year I decided to waste no time in turning in my application to become one of the shadow men as well.

When I was accepted, I remember asking the dean what my job description would be.

“It’s all in the job title,” Dean Tallman joked. “So anything that falls under ‘assisting a resident’ is your job.” I laughed with him. I was so overjoyed at the time about receiving the position that I did not understand the truth behind his statement. My job would encompass assisting in the residential, academic, social and spiritual lives of each of the men placed on my assigned hall. However, it didn’t take long to figure out what that meant.

It was a windy Friday night in my second month as an RA. I was doing the usual nightly room check to make sure all the men were safe and all their needs met. Most Friday nights were quiet—everyone in, either already in bed or quietly hanging out with friends.

This night was different. As I moved from room to room I heard great commotion coming from the last room on the hall—624. There was laughter and table smacking punctuated by quiet moments in between. My curiosity aroused, I decided to finish checking the other rooms first.

As I checked each room, I discovered more residents missing than usual. Even the quietest guy on the hall was not tucked under his covers. It was odd, and I was worried. But before I could start searching for the missing men, I had to deal with the raucous noise in room 624. When I opened the door, all fell silent as 12 pairs of eyes locked on mine. They were all there, and wasted no time pulling me into their heated conversation.

“Ricky, what would you do if you were dating a girl and the relationship started affecting your grades?”

“Ricky, how about if she was not the same religion as you?”

“Ricky, what do you think about the new ‘Good Samaritan’ policy?”

The questions flooded in and before I knew it we were knee deep in discussing how the college’s drug and alcohol policy would affect our grades and success levels in the future.

Connecting conversations

And the conversation did not end there. I have since found myself in deep and personal conversations with many men on my hall. I have heard about new job opportunities, lost jobs, parents divorcing, plans to propose to girlfriends, academic stress and relief, and many other personal experiences.

Working as a resident assistant has connected me with many men from all walks of life, each with a different past and a different future. I have slowly become a part of each of these guys’ stories, celebrated their triumphs and trudging alongside them through the hard times.

I’m thankful to Union for giving me the opportunity to influence and be influenced by these men who have become a part of my family.

Ricky Amimo spends his evenings as a head residence hall assistant and his days studying in the first year of the physician assistant program at Union College. Originally from Kenya, Africa, Ricky enjoys basketball, soccer, writing and biking for fun.