American abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Almost four years ago my now 14-year-old son qualified for the champ level of Irish Dance before his time.  Although he worked hard and grew a lot, he didn’t place when competing locally or recall for a medal at a major international competition since then.  Four long years.

That was the backdrop as we prepared to go to New Orleans for the 2017 North American Irish Dance Championships.  One month before he was to compete, with plane tickets paid for and hotels booked, he rolled his ankle at school playing basketball and was misdiagnosed with a broken foot. Thankfully we learned a few days later that it was a pull on his growth plate rather than a fracture and three weeks of rest should heal it up.  But that would bring him to just days before the elite competition where thousands of dancers from North America, Europe and Australia would descend on the host city for the Olympics of Irish Dance.  Would he be ready?

He followed the doctor’s orders, rested and did physiotherapy, and repeated the mantra that the only person he was competing against was himself.

On competition day, he danced his heart out and then waited patiently for the recall numbers to be announced.  He had never heard his number called at a competition before.

As they read out the numbers, we heard, “Number 111.”  That was his number! He would get the chance to do his third dance and take home a medal.  He was thrilled.

When the dancing was done, he came 21st out of 41 very talented boys his age from North America and beyond.  It is a memory we will never forget.

And it reminded me that life is what happens when you are making other plans.

As writer Ralph Marston once said, “If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.”

No matter what our dream is, may we embrace setbacks as a necessary fork in the road, never give up and always dance like no one is watching.