Our most valuable commodity is time.

Love? Yes. Family? Yes. Friendship?

Resoundingly yes. All are valuable. Each should be treasured.

But the thread that runs through each is time - moments spent together, hours alone spent lamenting the absence of someone dear.

Of course, time is a human construct. We have a primal need to record our lives, hold on to events, words, thoughts that have shaped our lives for good or bad.

We recollect, rehash, go back and mull the what-ifs and the I-should-have-saids.

But time, above all, is an investment. It's an enterprise, a finite number that will end at a time we don't know in advance. I don't know if it's better to know or not.

There is the school of "live your life as if every day is your last," but that simply isn't practical.

Will I really want to do laundry in my last hours on Earth? Lord, I hope not.

So I suppose, in a way, every action each of us makes - mundane or otherwise - is a vote of confidence that we plan to be around at least long enough to need clean unmentionables.

I've been thinking a lot about time lately. Maybe it's that school is starting again, or how the blue of the sky changes slightly as we reach this point of summer and head downhill toward fall.

Much of it has to do with writing about Walter Douglas Elementary School. (You can find the pieces at www.azstarnet.com/walterdouglas)

I spent about six weeks there, from March through May, hanging out in classrooms, helping with kids who need more time on reading skills, handing out punch - whatever they told me to do.

Schools are like farms - there is always work to be done. And if you're there, you need to pitch in.

Moments from those weeks that will stay with me likely didn't scratch the surface for the kids involved. It's impossible to know.

But these pinpoints in time remind me that, in this limited-vision era when the measure of education is foolishly reduced to a series of standardized test questions, we owe children more.

We owe them imagination and knowledge and new ways of seeing their worlds.

The first-grader who came to my table for reading help probably won't remember the morning he plopped down in the tiny chair, turned to me and very calmly announced, "I have X-ray vision."

He gazed around the room, squinting (that's how you use your X-ray vision). "That horse on the wall does not have any bones."

He was correct. It did not. He wasn't troubled by the fact that it was a poster of a horse, not an actual horse on the wall. Semantics. A boy with X-ray vision has bigger fish to fry. Or at least look at. Or through.

He smiled. He was reading and he has X-ray vision.

The next time we met he let me in on a secret - he can shoot lasers from his eyes. But it can hurt people, so he doesn't do it at school.

Very wise, I said. He nodded.

I hope this boy has so many sparks of joy in his life that they become indistinguishable and blend together into a happy childhood.

When this boy begins to think about his time, and where it has gone, I hope he remembers when, in first grade, he had X-ray vision.

Because he glowed with all the possibilities for the future.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Email her at sgassen@azstarnet.com