Sharing the Joy

Teaching someone to play Mah Jongg is a multi-day event. If anyone tells you they can teach you in one afternoon, don’t believe them. But unlike Bridge, which is a life’s study, you can really learn Mah Jongg in three days.

I told my students this week not to judge if they liked playing Mah Jongg by their first class. It takes at least two days to fully comprehend all that is involved. The first day of teaching is exhausting for me since I have to talk the whole time. (If you know me you think I talk the whole time anyway.)

Today was the second day, and it was much more hands on for the students and less theoretical. They paid attention, they asked good questions, they thought hard and then one by one you could see the light bulb go off in their brains as they caught on to the intricacies of the game.

People played whole games for the first time and won. There is nothing more fun than hearing the call of “Mah Jongg” from a first time player. Of course some don’t say it as a declaration, but more like an unsure question. Once I confirm for them that indeed, they have won, then it is a real celebration. It is so joyous when the other other players at their table also cheer for them in a heartfelt way.

Great new friendships are started at Mah Jongg. People who learn together exchange contact info so they can plan on playing together after classes.

Tonight Reba and I went to dinner with her neighbor Susan, who was one of my students five years ago when I first came down here to teach. She told me a story about the time I was teaching her class and heard her discard a tile from across the room and told her to stop and rethink that discard. She was still amazed that I knew what she was playing when I had not looked at her hand for five minutes and looked at a number of other ones in between.

I can’t believe she still remembers that, but it made an impression. I am just thrilled that she loved the game and is still playing five years later.

Tomorrow will be my last day of teaching this month, but I will be back in July to teach two weeks. The pandemic has kept me from Mah Jongg with real people. Teaching it this week has reminded me why I love it so much and love teaching it almost as much as playing it.

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