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In the vast landscape of the American West, wild mustangs work magic on men in need of reform.

When the feral horses are paired with convicts, rehabilitation comes from the sense of worth prisoners feel when they tame (or “gentle”) a wild creature.

“These horses know when you are mad or angry or frustrated before you do, so paying attention to them has helped me better understand when I’m getting frustrated,” one prisoner said. “If you really want to learn about yourself, this is the way to go.”

There’s nothing like a sense of accomplishment to boost well-being.

The current (and often obnoxious) push to instill self-esteem in our children involves sometimes-misguided thinking that it’s all about praise and hugs. In reality, confidence grows from the pride of getting something done (without the hovering aid of helicopter parents, I might add).

Prolonged unfinished business has the opposite effect. Like a festering, unhealed wound, it makes us fatigued and ill. An example: our inability here in this urban, Midwestern landscape to lasso our regional bus systems into effective, coordinated transit.

More than a dozen years ago, Hour Detroit wrote that we should embrace our buses as a step toward instilling faith in the merits of mass transportation. The 1999 story said:

“What we need right now, are comfortable buses running on dependable schedules. Maybe then metro Detroiters will realize that you can get to work while you read a book or tap on your laptop.”

[Our] buses should be comfortable coaches with foot rests, reading lights, padded high-backed seats that recline, and maybe even television for watching the Today Show en route, our story said.

Almost 13 years later, our inability to corral dysfunctional, bickering forces is indeed making us sick. Metro Detroit commuters are prisoners handcuffed by inertia. In this month of New Year’s resolutions, we need resolution.

The Sense of an Ending, the title of a new book, suggests what we need. The Julian Barnes novel is being promoted with an intriguing blurb: “Who are you? How can you be sure? What if you’re not who you think you are? What if you never were?”

Who do we think we are? A major U.S. city? We would better fit that description if we had the critical element of functioning public transit — one that begins with the most basic of ride options: reliable, comfortable motor coaches.

I’m reminded of another healing program, this one for dementia sufferers. Instead of constantly pressing Alzheimer’s’ patients to remember, TimeSlips invites them to make up stories, to use their imagination to tell a fictional tale, giving them something new and lively to talk about.

If we could forget our recent dysfunctional past and imagine a new chapter, maybe more young metro Detroit residents would say of their hometown: Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

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