Much like the concept of a payphone, this one may take a bit of explaining if you’re younger than 18.

I have always loved movies. Watching movies, going to movies, and recounting my favorite lines.

Back in the day, Blockbuster used to carry VHS tapes to rent. Inside of every VHS case from Blockbuster was the equivalent of your mother reminding you to wash up before dinner. A little note that said, “Be kind, please rewind.”

It was a special kind of frustration, when you picked up a movie and popped it in only to have your VCR spit it back out. If you are a little younger than me, you may have had one of those fancy auto-rewinding VCRs, but in my house, we roughed it. You had to time popping in the VHS tape just right, jackhammer the Rewind button over and over again until it took, and then hope it didn’t decide to spit out the tape before deciding to rewind.

It meant the last jerk who watched the movie couldn’t have been bothered to hit two buttons on his remote control before popping the plastic back in its case and shoving it through the slot at Blockbuster. Some antisocial douchebag who could care less if he robbed you of the best possible experience of watching the movie. I sometimes wondered if they did it on purpose.

That meant, if you wanted to watch Land Before Time or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on tape and it hadn’t been rewound, you had to take 10-15 minutes and rewind the stupid thing yourself. This was the time your movie snacks usually disappeared, soda became flat, popcorn became stale, and you contemplated your own mortality as the timer quickly counted backwards.

The concept is kind of similar to popping a DVD into your player for the first time and being forced to watch 15 minutes of previews from that studio because the DVD is programmed to disable the Main Menu button. Except instead of possibly being entertained by what’s coming to theaters next summer (or subsequently losing your faith in Hollywood and Humanity, your choice), you listened patiently for that whir-click of the VCR reaching the start of the tape.

I was up late last night and happened to see the live news coverage of what was happening in Aurora. It reminded me a lot of when I still was watching my favorite movies on VCR instead of DVD: 1999. DVDs were only about 2 years old at that point. We didn’t have many. Certainly not all my favorites. It was also the same year Columbine happened.

It got me thinking that what with all this fancy technology – you know, DVDs that don’t need to be rewound, Facebook walls that let you say “Happy Birthday” to friends whose favorite movies you can’t remember, and Netflix which, for all intents and purposes, has removed the need for DVDs altogether – we still need someone to remind us to be kind and rewind.

My heart is absolutely broken for families who will never again see a movie (let alone anything else) with their loved ones. Lives changed forever, innocences shattered, and all for the want of a real superhero to swoop in and save the day. But real life isn’t like that. There are no grand entrances, no big battles with cinematic scores, no black and white badguy/goodguy separations. Turns out, it’s a lot more fluid, a lot more up to us – individually – and on a much smaller, yet still time-intensive scale, to save the day.

Taking the time to be kind, press two buttons, and rewind… it makes all the difference.

I don’t know what happened in this shooter’s life to make him do what he did. Certainly it would have taken more than a few rewound tapes to have gotten his life back on track, but I do know this: every kindness, big or little, counts.

Most of us have no reason to rewind tapes, but we have every reason to rewind our attention – revisit the people and the things that matter. Play at them over and over again until they’re as well-worn, familiar, and ingrained into our lives as the Vanilla Ice scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Go ninja, go ninja, go, dawg.

And just like the timer on our VCR, every time we remember to do this, we can (slowly) reset our cynicism and our stress and our frustration back to zero. In doing so, we’ll have more time and more energy to be kind.

Open a door, let someone merge, stand up for someone, forgive a jerk, smile at a stranger. Be. Fucking. Kind.

In a world seemingly stuck in perpetual fast-forward, it’s time we all take a moment to be kind and rewind.

(Header photo: Be Kind, Rewind)