The song has since been recorded by dozens of artists including Chet Atkins: Joan Baez: Harry Belafonte: Pat Boone: Chris de Burgh: Glen Campbell: Johnny Cash: Mary Hopkin: John Denver: Hank Snow: Charley Pride: Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner to name but a few.
I first came across this song when I was training to be a Probation Officer up in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1970. It was the very first day for the course of mature students who had decided to enter the Probation Service or become a Social Worker. This was a course that invited older and more mature students, and on the course, we had all manner of previous occupations represented; my best friend was an ex-miner. This was the very last course in the country which provided the necessary qualifications to do the job within a 1-year crammed academic course at Polytechnic plus a two-year period ‘on the job experience’ to follow. All courses to become a Probation Officer after my year of academic training was for graduates only who had to undergo a 3-year academic course plus a one-year probationary period on the job.
Our first evening on the course involved an ice-breaking party of getting to know one another, during which everyone on the course had to contribute in some way. I will never forget ‘The Last Thing on my Mind’, a song which most people present (except me) were familiar with. During later years, I was prone to attend many nights where the singing of folk songs was all the rage, and where this song was a strong favourite for which requests were frequently made.
I do know the last thing on the mind of everyone alive or who ever lived was the very last thing they ever thought about. Whatever is in your thoughts are being instantly planted in your mind and are taking root in your memory bank as soon as you think the thought! In many ways, only by being able to influence ‘the way you think’, are you able to determine ‘what you think’ and with what degree of a positive outcome.
Without getting too complicated, our ‘thinking’ not only forms patterns of the mind from which our responses are shaped, and our behaviour is formed, but ‘thinking’ is solely responsible for reinforcing whatever type of prominent behaviour we display. How one ‘thinks’ is the mightiest reinforcer of both ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour, and ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy behaviour, and ‘rational ‘or ‘irrational’ behaviour. The sayings, that ‘nothing is so unless you think it so’ and ‘there is nothing that is good or bad that thinking will not make it so’ could not be truer.
As a Probation Officer for 25 years who specialised in the disciplines of ‘how behaviour is formed, weakened and strengthened, and how behaviour patterns can be changed’, I can tell you that if you could look into the mind of any addict of drink, alcohol, food, sex (or whatever), ‘the very first thing on their mind’ and ‘the last thing on their mind’ will be whatever their source of addiction is and how they can next satisfy their needs.
People who find it difficult to socialise and make friends are often people who would dearly love to have a boyfriend or girlfriend or partner to come home to. Ironically, all they ever want is to be and feel wanted. This is the first, last and only thought which preoccupies their mind (I want to be wanted), as this is the one thing in their mind that validates their existence.
I frequently wonder what a person with dementia last had on their mind. Also. given the fact that they cannot recall what they ate for breakfast today but can remember the exact colour of what they wore at their wedding 60 years ago, does it matter? Or will they simply re-think the same thought over and over?
I do feel that over the years since my childhood, that society has most certainly hardened in its attitude towards certain groups of people, in what it wants and the lengths we are prepared to go to satisfy our desires. There is, I feel, less of an inclination to think of the other person’s needs before one’s own. To think of another before self isn’t being saintly, it’s simply being sensitive to their situation in the most empathetic of acts. I frequently need to remind myself that God is watching from a distance how we deal with our fellow man, our friend, our neighbour, the stranger, the vagrant, indeed anyone who stretches out their palm towards us or looks at us with eyes of desperation crying out for help. I know that we cannot help and do for everyone in need, but if we could try harder to do so for ‘just one person daily’ in our lives, such an action would be a significant start to making the world spin more happily on its axis of love.
The first and the last thought every day I wake up and go to bed is ‘Today is going to be a good day’ and ‘Today has been a good day’. The first and last person on my mind is the same person; it is either God who I give thanks to or my wife Sheila whom I am eternally grateful for being a part of my life. The first physical activity for the day is to text all my children and siblings to say, ‘Good morning’ and to end my message with ‘I love you’. In many ways, one could say that God, family and Sheila are the human addictions that I cannot live without.
Love and peace Bill xxx