Cutting excess out of success

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October 17, 2008

1:45 PM

Sport utility vehicles, walk-in closets and mega malls all seem to say the same thing: Excess mean success. International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights group on campus, hopes to turn that philosophy inside out with LessFest. Part clothing drive and part simplicity promotion, the event encourages minimalist lifestyles while giving back to those in need. Today, IJM will display the donated clothing collected over the past two weeks in boxes across campus at the Crim Dell Meadow from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The group hopes that students see the event as more than just a clothing drive.

“It’s not asking people to clean out last year’s fashions to make room for this year’s fashions,” IJM President Nik Belanger ’10 said. “We’re stuck in this cycle. Living life to the fullest is living life to the simplest. We’re not living life to the fullest when we’re burdened by so much stuff.”

Kristen Marshall ’10, an IJM member who helped coordinate LessFest, has been interested in living simply since her freshman year, reading about poverty and inequality in the United States. Marshall saw poverty first hand this summer while volunteering in Camden, N.J. She donated her extra clothes to a family in Camden with two girls who only had a few shirts.

Describing her return home as a “reverse culture shock,” Marshall struggled with an awareness of the excess of all her material belongings. “It was emotional unpacking and putting stuff back into full drawers, and then packing all my stuff for school.”

Belanger said the life of Jesus was IJM’s inspiration for social justice.

“Jesus was homeless, he was broke, and he cared about people in a way that I don’t think we, today, are caring about people,” Belanger said. “IJM is a group of people who have become disillusioned with the way the church is acting and the way we are acting.”

Belanger also pointed to the number of international service groups at the College of William and Mary as proof of social discontent.

“It goes back to the root of how our generation is not happy with the way things are right now,” Belanger said.

Paige Roseman ’10 saw the event on Facebook and was attracted by the event’s focus on the redistribution of wealth. After seeing poverty firsthand in high school while distributing food with Key Club, Roseman gained a new perspective on material wealth.

“It was a good venue to see the disparity — us having so much, comparing it with people who have so little,” Roseman said.

IJM plans to donate the clothing, including two bags of Roseman’s own, to the local York County charity FISH.

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