Chairman Mao and Building Comradery

Joel Hahn

By Joel Hahn

Over the first days of SCATS, my campers and the others on the first-floor boys hall have done a fantastic job of warming up to each other. As a first year counselor, I had worried about my campers bonding, but it only took a couple hours for them to become fast friends. However, like any group of individuals, occasionally some of the campers on the hall end up feeling a little left out, which is where I and the fellow counselors come in.

Now, I can’t take a whole lot of credit for the events that I’m about to discuss — I pretty much made sure the kids stayed on the hall during hall time and not in their rooms, and the rest is history. At the beginning of hall time, a few campers sat in the common area playing a card game called Mao. It only took five minutes for those few campers to turn into almost the entire hall, all huddled around one single table, eager to learn and play.

Mao is a unique game, and after countless encounters with it, I still don’t completely understand how the game is played. That’s the beautiful thing about Mao: it has the power to remain dynamic and exciting every time you play. Beginning a game of Mao is pretty simple. It works sort of like Uno. Your objective is to empty your hand of cards, and you have to play a card that matches the suit currently on top of the stack of cards. The real fun in Mao is the power given to the dealer, who is allowed to assign new rules and dish out punishments when those rules are not followed.

The specific game of Mao that took place this night was a mix of pure mayhem and chaos with a ruthless dealer at its head. For 40 minutes, kids were dealt cards left and right for breaking rules such as “No talking,” “No laughing,” and “Failure to say jackity-jack-jack.” Although many of the kids at first acted frustrated, they were also laughing and yelling and having the time of their lives. The truth is that Mao isn’t about the ridiculous set of rules or about winning; it’s about connecting with your fellow campers and having as much fun as humanly possible. For the first time since camp began the previous day, my campers became a group and began to find where they belong.

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