Growing up in rural Texas, it was common to see homes with two doors. A clear glass door, or “storm-door,” would be placed just in front of the fancy door, protecting it from any harsh Texas weather. Over time, however, the storm-door also became a tool used to signal whether the home was opened to guests. “If the main door was opened and one could see inside,” in the words of my mother, “then the Mrs. or mother of the home was accepting guests, but if the door was closed, go on your way, they are not accepting guests today.”
Of course, my sister and I regularly ignored my mother’s words. It did not matter whether the door was opened or not; if there was something we wanted or needed from our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Davis, we would knock until she answered. Lucky for us, no matter the day, Mrs. Davis always joyfully received us, eager to share her latest homemade candy or get an update on what we were up to. I honestly cannot recall a single time that we were ever turned away. Like Abraham receiving the strangers (Gn 18:1-10), Mrs. Davis never hesitated to offer her best, no matter the time of day or what was happening in her own life, making herself fully available to whatever our needs were.
It is these memories that also remind me of the story of Mary and Martha, the story of two women who took on two different tasks upon Jesus’ arrival to their home. Martha, anxiously tending to every detail, grows frustrated with Mary’s lack of attention to preparing the table, only to be reminded by Jesus that “there is need of only one thing,” and that Mary, choosing to be present in the moment, has chosen “the better part” (Lk 10:38-42). For it is not the work of the house that is the most important, but to be present to the gifts received in the home, the grace and presence of Jesus Christ. In embracing her neighbors with joy and devotion, Mrs. Davis taught me the wondrous graces one may receive in choosing to be present to others, like Mary chose to be. The to-do lists and chores can always wait in favor of embracing the grace and gifts that Christ has sent to us to enjoy today, in this moment, at this exact time.
It is my prayer that just as Abraham, Mary, Martha, and Mrs. Davis have shown me, my children, too, will grow up to know that answering the door and preparing a table for unexpected guests will grace them with some of the most joyful gifts that they will ever encounter. So let us devote ourselves to quieting our obsessions with daily chores and to-do lists in favor of being more present to our homes and the neighbors who grace our porches—for it is in these moments that God’s love and devotion will blossom into full view.