Being genuine, spontaneous a quality all its own

This is the thing about “quote of the week,” or for that matter, I suppose, any viable quote; it cannot be planned. It must, by definition, come out randomly and without forethought. It must meet the criteria of making me (the teacher) laugh spontaneously.

Example: “It’s something horrible that makes my ears bleed.” (the description of a popular pop singer.) It then earns the privilege of being put on the whiteboard until usurped.

I had a young man in my class who tried, not just for months but for several years, to produce a quote of the week. Said young man would come to class with quotes from other sources, never quite understanding that the criteria were spontaneity and originality, not pre-planned humor.

So is it also with pulpit jokes, or any joke that opens a public speaking presentation. If it’s planned, it usually falls flat.

Spontaneity is good. I first learned the concept from Coach Kasimankas, our linebacker coach in high school, who taught us, on the field and off, to “think on your feet, gentlemen.” This is not the same as flying by the seat of your pants … it is being prepared, but knowing what to do when either “prepared” falls apart, or an opportunity unexpectedly presents itself.

A few months ago I found myself in a place where I was watching a public speaker, of what profession I will not reveal, and I found myself thinking “This dude’s definitely got a theater background.” Every gesture, every word, was studied and measured and thought out, giving the impression that I was watching a carefully scripted performance, not an encounter with a man’s guidance.

That impression was reinforced when I discovered that the person involved was aloof in person, with no ability to connect on a one to one level. Again, I can’t reveal the profession, but it’s one where there’s no substitute for relationship building.

The issue at hand for this column, in a widely defined circle, is about genuineness.

One of my favorite whipping targets, as regular readers know, is reality TV, and in particular those shows which purport to be spontaneous, when that’s obviously impossible. Seriously, how can one pretend to be in the wilderness with survival depending on his wits, when there’s a whole production crew around ?

Wouldn’t it be better to simply say, “This television show depicts a trained wilderness expert simulating survival type conditions?” Maybe they think nobody would watch if we didn’t believe that he might die if he messes up, instead of being saved by the production crew.

Genuineness is something to be valued, whether on a TV show or in the quote of the week. It’s the quality, to me, of being “in the moment,” and in no way to be confused with being sloppy and unprepared. May you be spontaneous and genuine in all that you do this week.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: