Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.

The Defy Ventures bus travelled south on the 101 freeway, not long after dawn, with me and twenty or so other volunteers on board

It was last Thursday, and we were headed towards Soledad prison

As we passed a golf course, a brilliant green grass patch flashed, set apart from the dusty yellow-and-brown of the surrounding fields

Long white tractor-trailer trucks stood idling on the side of the highway, like a child’s model toys lined in a row

Our bus was plush, and full of good cheer

Volunteers — optimistic, positive, dedicated tech startup founders, business executives, nonprofit workers, and the like, enjoyed granola bars and bottled water (and coffee, of course), while engaged in enlightening conversation and laughter

All of us committed to serving others, while spending a day away from our high-tech toys, places of employ, hobbies we enjoy…not to mention clients, friends, and families

Many years ago, in 2004, I, as a jail inmate, rode in a battered Corrections Bus…

Tattered seats, steel grilles screwed tight over windows, shackled to a young man suffering from the flu, who worried he’d get fired from his jailhouse kitchen job if it was discovered he was ill…

Running through my head, the Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, “Bad Moon Rising”

(CCR musicians formed their first trio in high school in nearby El Cerrito, California)

I was on my way to lie to a judge about how I would complete a stint in rehab, if he set me free

Which he did…but instead I broke my promise, and returned to the meth pipe

And spent three years locked in combat against imaginary enemies, dedicating incredible amounts of time and energy to jousting those conspirators who had architected the vast plan against me

(In my meth-psychosis hijacked mind, of course)

As our Defy bus approached Soledad, a windmill appeared, its blades caught frozen in time (in my iPhone picture) like a massive peace sign

Its base easily thrice the height of a telephone pole below, that looked like a Lincoln Log, and the windmill’s base supporting the center of the three spinning arms

Within Soledad’s walls, the Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs), as are called the men in Defy’s training program…

Pitched their business plans to panels of us volunteers, who served as judges, and the EITs did so in professional fashion, as they described their future customers’ problems that needing solving, their own solutions, rationales for why their businesses will succeed, and much more

The EITs were amazing: upbeat, energized, focused on social benefit

They, and the volunteers, aren’t attacking imaginary enemies

They are solving very real problems in society, problems which affect us all

As Andrew Glazier, Defy’s CEO, mentioned — and as appears on the website of the State of California Legislative Analyst’s Office — it costs us, the taxpayers, around eighty thousand dollars a year to incarcerate one person

The volunteers and EITs experienced a high-energy Defy day, with hip-hop music, smiles and high fives, the entrepreneurial spirit soaring to a new level, like those windmill blades spinning above the California trees

Volunteers and EITs formed deeply meaningful connections…Andrew led the “Step to the Line” exercise, a powerful, personal means of enlightening participants as to how different are those lived experiences society hands us, due to our birth circumstances — and what are the chances for change, that compassion brings

The volunteers’ lives are changed for the better, as they realize the EITs are, in some ways, like actual windmills (not the windmills-seen-as-enemies Quixote battled)

Meaning, a person in prison may appear to stay in place while spinning and spinning…

But truly, these EITs are generating incredible power, to benefit themselves, the volunteers, and society

The EITs are inspirational human beings, and it feels certain they will go on to keep their promises to contribute to their communities…thanks to their dedication, efforts, perseverance, and drive

Thanks to the amazing Defy volunteers who support them

I take my moment frozen in time, right now…

To thank Defy, and you, my readers

I’ll never (let’s hope) have to return to circumstances like those I put myself in, in 2004…

I don’t have to tilt at any more windmills

How are you transforming your life, by transforming the lives of others?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *