In 2010 I spent two weeks in Yosemite being belay, camp helper, and taxi driver for a wonderful group of people, most of whom were going to rappel El Captain—one half a mile, ledge to scree.

Mark trained for months. I was fit as I’ve been in my life. It’s a good thing. The minimum walk from car to camp was one mile. That was IF the road to that parking lot was open and not covered in snow or ice. The hike to the other trail to get to a trailhead parking lot was much longer, and you had use a fallen tree to cross over a stream on the way. Add in, that we never went anywhere without a backpack of something. It was one of the hardest, most fun, character building, bonding experiences for all of us.

Blessedly at the end of the longer trail out of camp was a park restroom, with real flushing toilets and running water in the sinks and bear boxes. Did I mention we were in one of the primitive areas? We had almost all the luxuries of a car camping camp, but we had to trudge it in, in small bits. Luckily everyone helped everyone.

Anyway, back to the toilets. We were often the first ones in the morning to use the wonderful brick toilet house, as we trudged out of camp to our bear lockers to get more food or clothing or get in a car and head to the valley where the rappellers were coming down the half-mile rope. I taxied them to showers and food and back to the trail to camp. So almost everyone was either leaving to go to the valley, or hiking the ten-mile march up to the top. (Yes, it did take 10 miles to get one half mile vertical. Through the woods, on a “less traveled” footpath.)

Since we were there so early we often ran into the young man responsible for cleaning the toilets and hauling out the trash. He was young, in his late twenties, maybe. He was very fit and good-looking. But that was not made you notice him. He literally whistled or hummed while he worked. Sometimes I even heard him singing under his breath. While cleaning toilets!

One morning I just had to approach him and ask why he always seemed so happy doing what must be the worst job in the park.

He answered right off, “I am happy. I love my job. As the song goes, “How Can I Keep from Singing?””

Dumbfounded I asked why. I told him I couldn’t imagine worse work.

“It’s not so bad. It could be much worse.”


“I could be doing this in a city.”

That young man was happy. Truly happy in every sense of the world. Not because of something he owned, or his job, or his looks or because he was better than someone else. He had that inner serenity that makes you sing, no matter what. I know that he took the time to appreciate the beauty and stillness around him. He was not one of those always busy, stressed people we tend to become.

Back home, now, I continue to think of him and the lesson he taught me. Look for the happiness and good all around you instead of focusing on the negative.


My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation,

I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn

That hails a new creation;

Thro’ all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;

It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

                       How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them go winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Saviour liveth;

What tho’ the darkness gather round?

Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that refuge clinging;

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;

I see the blue above it;

And day by day this pathway smooths,

Since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing;

All things are mine since I am his—

How can I keep from singing?


8 thoughts on “How Can I Keep From Singing (Yosemite)

  1. That is inspirational. Meeting people like that in the world is what reminds us of what is important. And that song has some of the most uplifting words ever written. Thank you for sharing it and reminding me, I should be singing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favorite songs… raises goosebumps in four-part harmony and a great reminder that you need not search for happiness it is waiting for you. Loved this.

    Liked by 2 people

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