SLOAN COLUMN: In praise of ‘The Unexpected Visitor’
Resting on the coffee table in my living room is a most extraordinary book. I’ve looked at it countless times during the past decade and it never fails to leave me filled with wonderment and contemplation.
“The Unexpected Visitor” was a gift from the daughter of the book’s creators, Dr. Naseeb Bashara Baroody and his wife, Margaret.” The inscription on the flyleaf at the front of the book reads, “I hope you enjoy this book and continue to discover in many ways the loving heart of The Unexpected Visitor.
” Lisa, I most certainly have. It has brought me joy, given me much to think about, and it has opened my eyes to look for The Unexpected Visitor in the most ordinary of places. I have found Him more often than not. The book is a collection of black and white photos taken by the longtime Florence physician over a period of more than 50 years. Most of the photos were taken in South Carolina, from the Lowcountry to the Upstate. More than a dozen were taken right here in the Pee Dee. Some are from neighboring North Carolina and Georgia, while others from as far away as Canada, France, and Egypt. The Baroodys, members of Florence First Presbyterian Church, traveled the world doing medical mission work. In the book’s introduction, Margaret writes,
“This book is a small collection of photographs and narratives sharing how we – a photographer and a writer, as mates or alone - in those rare moments seemed to touch reality. The images and stories have been experienced through different seasons of our lives: the spring of youth, the summer of career, the autumn of middle age, and the winter of semi-retirement with medical mission work to faraway places. No matter the context, at home or abroad, the opportunities for epiphany are always there.
” Each and every one of the photos is nothing short of mesmerizing. They draw you in and take you on an imaginary journey. Each image is accompanied by a text written by Margaret or a quote or scripture reference that evokes even more discernment.
Among my favorite photos is one of a bridge at Francis Marion University. Resting halfway beneath the shadowy canopy of tall trees and littered with autumn’s crinkled castaways, the wooden overpass arches from foreground to background. The image evokes time, movement and passage.
Another is of the magnificent ancient Sapelo Oak on Sapelo Island in Georgia. Spanish moss hangs from each of its long, twisting branches. It speaks to me of God’s grandeur.
My favorite is titled “Woman and Child.” It was taken in Shebin El-Kom, Egypt and is a portrait of an elderly woman and a child. Dr. Baroody describes her wrinkled face as “etched so full of history.” His intent was to take a photo of only the woman, but a smiling young girl entered the frame at the very last minute. The resulting image is a fascinatingly stark contrast of the exuberance of youth and the solemness of aging.
Not surprisingly, “The Unexpected Visitor, ” published by Joggleboard Press, earned much praise and garnered numerous honors, including a silver medal for best photography book of the year by ForeWord Reviews!, and a national bronze IPPY award from the Independent Publishers for best spiritual/inspirational book published by an independent publisher.
Sadly, Dr. Baroody died in February of 2010, just prior to the release of his second book. “The Unexpected Visitor” is a testament to his remarkable life, his profound faith, and his exceptional skills with a camera. Margaret joined her beloved husband in the Kingdom Eternal in Feb. of 2019.
I am thankful for these two good and faithful servants and the priceless treasure they left for me and others who continue to seek out “The Unexpected Visitor” during their journey through life.
Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@florencenewsjournal. com