Former Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar probably wasn't intimately familiar to most residents in this part of the state. The son of an underground miner from Chisholm in northeastern Minnesota, he represented a district on the opposite end of the state. Still, he served 18 terms beginning in 1974, the state's longest serving member of Congress, so local people are familiar with him for his many accomplishments.

Oberstar, who served 36 years in Congress, died recently in his sleep. It was stated that he was remembered by family, friends and dignitaries as a family man with so much passion for life, knowledge, transportation and his beloved bicycle that it was hard to keep up with him.

More importantly, at least in my mind, is that he was known for his curiosity.

"He was someone who was amazingly knowledgeable, because he was so curious about the world, curious in the best way, he wanted to know how things worked so he could get things done," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said on the Senate floor shortly after his death.

There are many traits we want to see in our leaders. Drive, integrity, knowledge and compassion are some of those traits. However, curiosity is an underappreciated trait that I've come to believe is key in many areas of life. Yet, that view is probably a minority view.

As Franken later said about Oberstar, "He had a tendency to go on and on, but it was because he believed everyone was as curious about the world as he was, and he was almost always wrong about that."

Because people aren't curious about things Oberstar found interesting, or about anyone else, or about anything else, we have so many people claiming to be bored. They won't open their minds to all the possibilities right before them.

Curiosity can lead people to an exciting world of possibilities that has infinite wonder. Curious people dig beneath the surface of normal life, which can lead to amazing discoveries.

As Albert Einstein once wrote in a letter to a colleague, "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

Of course, Einstein is a rare being. However, even in the lives of more ordinary people, curiosity makes a difference, whether it is making the most of free time, succeeding at work or even finding a connection in love.

I've found it makes a great difference in my line of work. Newspaper people who aren't curious about what goes on outside the doors of the office won't go far. And, as in other lines of work, employees who aren't curious about their co-workers, the company or the community probably don't care much about the job they do.

I remember a counselor once inferring that people who aren't curious about their spouse - what makes them tick, what drives their actions, what they find amusing - probably won't have long marriages.

In a way, curiosity is an expression of love, whether it is love of a person or love of life.

Curiosity also keeps us alive, despite what they say about curiosity killing the cat, a phrase that has an obscure origin with a meaning that has transformed over the years. A person who has no curiosity has no will to live, because, after all, what is there to live for? A world without mystery, with nothing left to be discovered, is a bleak world.

As Walt Disney once said, "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

You may not become a famous statesman, physicist or entertainer, but if you embrace your curiosity, the new doors and new paths may just lead to some amazing things in your life and in the world around you.