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Zest! Now there’s a word you don’t hear very often! It’s a fun word to use, but it’s tough to work it into a conversation. When we see a toddler dash across the living room babbling happy noises all the way, we don’t comment, “Wow! That kid has zest,” even though he does.

Can you have zest? You can have gusto, and you can feel enthusiasm, and you can taste seasoning, but can you have zest? Yes! The dictionary says zest is both a noun and a verb. I think it would be a compliment if someone called me zesty. A chef would like it if you told him, “The marinara sauce had an unusual, lovely zest to it.”

Perhaps the most common usage of zest is in the phrase, “zest for living.” We admire active seniors for their zest for living. It means they enjoy life, that they live it with passion and delight. I can assure you, living with zest is a lot better than living with sorrow, apathy, and discontent. I know, I’ve tried them all.

But you don’t need to be an old guy to lose your luster in life. The weight of daily living can wear you down, steal your strength, and make your get-up-and-go get up and leave. It happens most often to people who think a hectic schedule is a sign of life when it’s more like a predictor of death. Stress and worry undermine peace and weaken goodwill while zest makes you want to live.

Zest is the hearty enjoyment of both the big and little things of life. Put extra salsa on your taco, and you have more zest. A positive response to a negative comment restores comity which honors humanity and restores energy which is, drum roll please, zest!

Zest also improves your looks. Christian Dior, the late great French designer, said, “Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.”

Zest is charming. Some people add zest to any occasion simply by entering the room. They smile easily, visit cordially, and behave respectfully. Zest talks to strangers, turns over rocks, peeks behind unmarked doors, celebrates wrong turns, asks insightful questions, and listens for edifying answers. A person with zest is never apathetic, indifferent, or boring.

Have a zest for life, and you’ll look, feel, and be younger than your neighbor who is bored with his job, uninterested in his family, eats junk food, considers leaning back in his recliner a form of exercise, and hasn’t read a book since high school. Norman Vincent Peal said, “If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.”

Zest is an antidote for heartache, loneliness, and hopelessness. Zest is living in the moment; it is the striving, the climbing, the creating, the loving, the holding, the letting go, the sunrise, the afternoon nap, and the rest that comes from a day well spent and a life well lived.

Zest is a life-lifting word that has its origin in your deepest soul as it was God who enabled you to breathe your first breath and will be with you until you take your last. With his image upon you and in you, he enables you to perceive the wonder of life, to love your aliveness, and to stay alive your whole life and beyond. That’s zest!

©2014 Ronald D. Rosss

To read all of Dr. Ross’ columns visit RonRossToday.com.