In this world, there are a lot of exceptional kids doing lots of exceptional things. So, needless to say, when Time magazine put out a call for nominees to be named Kid of the Year, it got plenty of responses. But, from more than 5,000 nominees, one Kid stood out for his kindness and desire to help those in need. That Kid, and Time’s Kid of the Year, is 11-year-old Orion Jean.
Photo via Time Magazine
While Jean describes his efforts as, “If you see a problem, fix it,” the problems he’s chosen to fix go way beyond simple quick fixes. Consider that he has collected and donated 100,000 meals to needy families. Or that he arranged for more than 500,000 books to be donated to children who don’t have books of their own at home. Those missions, Jean says, started with a speech.
“When the pandemic began, people were losing their jobs, homes, and access to food and other essential things. I wanted to help,” he said. “But the opportunity actually came when my teacher suggested I enter the National Kindness Speech Contest in 2020. I won, and with the prize money, I started a kindness initiative to help people.”
In addition to simply encouraging kindness, Jean’s efforts to get books to kids who don’t have them speaks to his commitment to literacy. While Jean noted that he had a big team behind him, his ultimate goal was not only literacy, but empowerment.
“To me, literacy is something that can get you off the ground. It can allow you eventually to get that job, or maybe it’s just a way for you to escape your everyday life, to learn about a new person or culture,” he said. “Some kids don’t have access to any books. They live in book deserts. I want to get books out to those areas. I don’t do this on my own. I have a whole team behind me: my parents, family, all the generous corporate donors and organizations. They’re doing this because they feel compelled to help people in their community.”
While his kindness initiative helped Orion Jean earn top honors as Time’s Kid of the year and had a huge impact in his hometown of Fort Worth, TX, it’s also taught him that we all need time to take care of ourselves. Though he’s taking on grown-up problems as an activist, Jean realizes it’s important to still enjoy being a kid, too.
“I’ve tried musical instruments, like drums and piano. I play video games with friends,” he said. “Just taking time to relax and be 11. Self-care is important, just every now and then knowing when to step back and take a break.”
Time honored Orion Jean as its Kid of the Year for demonstrating on a grand scale that kindness really can go a long way. But it’s also important to note that his lesson is one that every Kid, and adult, should take to heart.