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Langford resident wants more kindness, less litter

Tom Kile goes on walks for his physical and mental health. He picks litter for everyone else
Langford resident Tom Kile started doing his garbage-picking walks a few years ago when he lived on Haida Gwaii. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Some early morning commuters may recognize Tom Kile. His bright neon vest, garbage picker and black trash bag stretched around an old bike wheel make him pretty distinctive.

Though many miss him, as Kile’s mornings often start around 5 a.m. heading out around downtown Langford in the wee hours to walk and pick up any garbage as he goes.

Since he retired around 15 years ago, Kile has endeavoured to stay active. Usually, that involves early morning workouts in his bedroom and in his younger days some long-distance cycling, but since he dislocated his shoulder and tore his calf helping push a car out of a snowbank during December’s winter storm, he’s had to ease off on that – though he hopes his physiotherapist will be able to “get it working again.”

“I heard it snap back here. I felt the pain, and I had to go to the dentist’s office which is upstairs. The worst part is the elevator wasn’t working,” he laughed. “At least they’ve got those reclining chairs.”

Kile’s been doing his garbage-picking walks for years, starting first after he retired on Haida Gwaii, cleaning the beach or the road as he walked along to the post office. Since he moved to Langford he’s continued, first around the Glen Lake area and now around Langford’s downtown.

“One thing you learn as you get older, once you retire, whatever you are doing as a young person up to that point, as far as activity, you stop doing it because you think now I can relax, ‘I’m not doing it.’ But you can’t relax and not do it because then your health all of a sudden goes down and pretty soon you can’t do anything. So you have to find an activity to help you – not only physically but it helps you mentally.”

Usually, he fills around half a garbage bag on his route, although some days he’s filled up to three or four bags. Having spent years walking the same route, he’s learned to move off the sidewalk when a group of kids or a young person with their heads down looking at their phones approach since they often don’t make room for him.

“I don’t care if people like me, dislike me or anything. That’s just me. I would like people to treat me like I treat them but if they don’t, that’s OK. That’s not me. That’s just the way it is.”

He’s also been met with friendlier faces. One couple who asked him what he was doing he’s since seen out picking garbage themselves, and he hopes he can inspire more people to chip in.

“I follow the Dalai Lama on Facebook and he said something that makes sense to me. He said he’s not Catholic. He’s not Christian and is not Muslim. He’s not Buddhist. He’s not this… listed all the religions. He said I only follow one religion. It’s kindness and compassion. And that rang a bell with me… it just becomes a way of life.”

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