I remember in days gone by when renting videos to watch in the leisure of your home was a big thing. Now of course, video tapes and video stores are gone leaving only an occasional reminder on an abandoned building still painted the familiar colors associated with this company or that. One of the big problems that these stores faced was getting the people who rented the movies to rewind the tape. If the video came back without having been rewound, the employees would have to take time and do it. I suppose in the grand scheme of things having employees rewind tapes wouldn’t be the end of the world but the real issue was the volume of tapes coming back and the need to quickly have them ready to go for the next person. Back in those days I had a friend who worked in one of these stores. He told me this issue was a huge problem and that much of his time spent working, as well as that of others, was simply rewinding tapes. This was a big problem! But what to do?
The first attempt to solve this problem came in the form of the little sticker that was placed on each tape. It said “Be Kind, Please Rewind”. This attempt was based on the belief that if an issue is brought to our attention with a gentle but clear directive, considerate people will take the additional minute or so to rewind each tape and then return the videos, ready for the next renter. Apparently this immediately had a profound effect upon the problem. Appealing to a person’s kindness caught on and for quite awhile reduced the problem dramatically.
What happened next is interesting and telling. As time went by, people stopped rewinding again and slowly over time, the problem intensified. What had happened? Had people stopped wanting to be kind? Perhaps the answer was more complex than that.
My friend told me that he noticed the shift intensify when the prices increased to rent the movies. He thought that probably people were responding to the increase in price by passive, aggressively choosing to not “be kind”. And so the problem persists. What to do?
The next solution probably wouldn’t surprise you. The video stores started assessing a fee if you brought your tapes back unwound. The fee I remember was 25 or 50 cents per tape which was not a huge amount but apparently appealing to people’s wallets did get them to start rewinding the tapes again. All I know is that one time I went into the video store to get some videos and when I went to the counter to pay I was informed that there were several of these charges assessed to my account. Apparently my children had returned some videos without rewinding them. I know I had a good talk with them about it. How this all played out is really unknown because tapes were replaced with discs and the problem of rewinding went away.
I bring this all to your attention to point out a couple of ideas about how to live in the world as followers of Christ. Kindness seems to be a word that pretty much everyone believes is a good thing. Christ-followers have the example of Jesus to model kindness as well the lives of the Apostles and the clear directives from Scripture that tell us to practice kindness. There are probably few if any Christ-followers who would debate whether kindness is always the right way to respond. Why then do we struggle to practice it so much? Why do we let so many opportunities to express kindness to those outside of Christ pass us by?
To be clear, kindness can be practiced in thousands of ways that perhaps escape our notice. Things like using turning signals, choosing to let others proceed ahead of us, acknowledging the special moments and achievements in the lives of others, looking people in their eyes, affirming the worth of another even when called upon to correct some behavior, giving people our undivided attention when they speak to us, etc., etc., etc. These subtle, kind gestures speak volumes and can change what sometimes seems unchangeable.
But the real issue is this: first, do you practice kindness? If you do, are doing it from a heart that actually is thinking about someone else above yourself or are you doing it ought of a sense obligation? Or to put another way: Do you rewind to be kind or do you rewind to avoid a penalty? As you finish this week and anticipate gathering with the other saints for worship, how might you express your kindness, brought forward from a heart that has been treated graciously, kindly by King Jesus? And, how might you express that kindness to one another as we gather?