“The really important ‘great’ events are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.”

Mr. Rogers

Life…that grand stage where we all strut and fret—hoping to land the leading role in a blockbuster drama. You know, the kind where you’re the hero, the villain is vanquished, and the credits roll to a standing ovation. But let’s be honest, most of us are not the Brad Pitts or Meryl Streeps of our own lives. We’re more like the extras, the ones who pass by in the background while the camera focuses on someone else’s dazzling smile.

Take me, for instance. I’ve had my share of headline-worthy moments: the day I got married, the births of my two sons, and that first time I made spaghetti. Ah, yes, the spaghetti. I had misinterpreted my mom’s instructions, used too little water, and ended up creating kindling for a spaghetti fire. So, so much fire. Ah, the drama, the excitement, and the smoke detector that remained unamused for hours.

But if you ask me about simple moments that could be easy to forget but were full of meaning, I’d have to dig a little deeper—past the glitz and glamour, into the dusty corners of everyday existence. You see, it’s often the small, seemingly inconsequential events that end up being the real show-stoppers.

Picture this: I’m at the grocery store, wrestling with a cantankerous shopping cart that has one wheel perpetually stuck in a leftward spin. I’m navigating the labyrinthine aisles, dodging other shoppers like I’m in some sort of suburban gladiator arena. Finally, I reach the checkout line, my cart filled with the essentials: bread, milk, and an embarrassing amount of mangos.

As I’m unloading my cart, I notice the cashier. Her name tag says “Jenny,” and she looks like she’s had a long day. Her eyes are heavy, and her smile seems to be on a coffee break. Then, my hand reaches for the avocados, the green gems of my grocery haul.

Jenny scans the first one and frowns. “Hmm, this one’s not ringing up,” she says, tapping at her register in an attempt to troubleshoot the issue. The line behind me starts to grow, and I can feel the collective impatience of suburban shoppers bearing down on me.

Feeling the tension, I decide to lighten the mood. “Well, you know what they say,” I offer, “It’s avoca-do, not avoca-don’t!”

Jenny chuckles, and for a brief moment, her eyes light up. Then she grins and says, “And here I thought they were just the green divas of the produce aisle!”

Now, let’s be clear: I’m not claiming that either of our jokes were comedic masterpieces. Far from it. But in that brief exchange, something wonderful happened. Jenny’s laughter and her own joke weren’t just polite responses—they were shared moments of respite from a world of hurry and transaction. We were two strangers, caught in the mundane routine of groceries and checkout lines—yet for a fleeting second, we found a slice of joy in the most unlikely of places. It was as if we both acknowledged that life’s small, simple moments can be just as meaningful as the grand, dramatic ones.

After I pay and start to leave, Jenny calls out, “Have a great day!” It’s a simple phrase, one we hear all the time, but coming from her on that day, it feels genuine. And I walk out of the store feeling like I’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in a Grocery Store Drama.

You see, life isn’t just about the marquee moments—the ones that get all the attention and applause. It’s about the quiet victories, the uncelebrated acts of kindness, the stupid dad jokes that make a weary cashier smile. These are the moments that play out “in the wings,” away from the spotlight but close to the heart.

So the next time you find yourself yearning for a starring role, remember that the real magic often happens offstage, in the unscripted interactions that make up the beautiful, chaotic mosaic of life. And who knows? You might just find that the best performances are the ones that never make it to the big screen, but make a simple moment better.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.