His name is Darryl. He told me so, along with some other interesting tidbits about his life. Like his love for our country and how he served faithfully in the armed services. About a specific time that he had the honor of dining with a dignitary — far from home, across the sea.

At one point, he said something quite profound —

Everyone has a story.

I was serving drinks at our local soup kitchen, the Open Door. It wasn’t a particularly difficult job, so I appreciated listening to him as I scooped ice and filled the glasses.

Donnie, a regular, walked up then. He and Darryl were clearly acquainted. After a hug and a compliment to me — Donnie always gives compliments — he turned to Darryl, and the two men spoke.

“I overheard what you were saying,” Donnie said. “That day — the day you were talking about, when you ate with that man,” Donnie continued, “That was the same day I had my accident.”

I knew about Donnie’s accident, as do many around our small town. He’d been on a motorcycle. The accident took his girlfriend’s life and left Donnie with permanent injuries, though it didn’t steal his joy.

There was a connection between the two men, something I couldn’t quite feel but was privileged to witness. I think it was then that Darryl looked at me and gave me the gift of those words.

Again —

Everyone has a story.

Donnie nodded in agreement, then pointed upward with his crooked finger. “Jesus doesn’t waste a thing.” And then, “Nice earrings.” He gave me another hug before hobbling off to sit down to his hot meal.

But I was left with an ice scoop in one hand, blinking back tears as I looked at the people gathered around tables. Darryl was right. Everyone does have a story. And Donnie, too. Jesus doesn’t waste a thing.

There was Susan, whom I’d first met some years earlier when she and her boyfriend came to our house to fix something that was broken. I don’t remember what, but I do recall that she was easy to talk to and her guy was good at fixing things. Somehow, in the years since, they’ve fallen on hard times — her life seemingly broken, though I don’t exactly know how. They live in a makeshift tent behind the Open Door. A sign hangs inside — Home is where you hang your heart. She says it’s a reminder. “We’re not homeless, as long as we’re together.”

And then there’s Russ. I first met him years ago when he was still married to his wife, together raising their two sons. A carpenter, he created beautiful cabinets and furniture. I don’t know what happened to their family, what led to the divorce.

“You’re Russ, right?” His face lit up as he nodded, smiling. “I’ve seen your oldest boy recently. Doesn’t he have a child himself?”

You’d have thought I’d handed him a hundred dollars. “Yes, m’am. He’s something else.” His pride for a grandchild he likely rarely sees spilled over as I poured his drink.

And the thirty-something year old man whose name I can’t remember. I’ve seen him in the soup kitchen over the years. His niece, Ericka, had been in our son’s first grade class many years earlier. I asked him how she was, and he smiled shyly then. “She’s married off now and has a kid of her own.”

“Everyone goes and grows up on us, huh? Where does time go?” I asked, trying not to sound trite as I handed him his drink.

But it’s true. Time goes, and day by day, the stories of our lives are being written. Some know their stories. Some don’t. Some choose to share, while others still can’t. Some stories spill out with ease. Others are bound up inside, yet untold — to hopefully, one day, be unfurled, unfettered.

Darryl and Donnie — they share the gift of their stories, not because theirs are free of pain and hardship, but because they understand, as Donnie so wisely offered, that Jesus doesn’t waste a thing.

He uses it all — the good, the bad and the ugly — working them together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Yes, connecting the pieces of our stories — both the beauty and the brokenness — to create a beautiful mosaic.

And my joy fills up to overflowing.