After finishing her workout last Wednesday, Rebecca Mehra stopped by her neighborhood grocery store in Bend, Oregon, to pick up a few things.
As she walked into the Safeway, she heard a woman call out to her from her car.
“I walked over and found an elderly woman and her husband,” Mehra, 25, recounted in a now-viral tweet. “She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store.”
“Afraid to get sick as they are in their 80’s and hear that the novel coronavirus is affecting older people disproportionately,” Mehra explained. “And that they don’t have family around to help them out.”
The woman asked Mehra to get her groceries for her.
“I said yes without kind-of thinking much, because I was in just such shock listening to how afraid she was,” Mehra told TODAY on Monday. She accepted the woman’s cash and handwritten grocery list and “just walked into the grocery store and bought her items.”
When she returned to the couple’s car, the woman told her they had been waiting for 45 minutes to ask “the right person.”
Mehra picked up her own groceries and headed home. When she told her boyfriend the story later, he said she had to tweet it. So, she took to the internet with her story.
“I know it’s a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can,” Mehra tweeted as part of the viral thread. “Not everyone has people to turn to.”
By Monday, her story was just about everywhere. Her original post had been retweeted almost 107,000 times and she was featured on cable news and online outlets.
She told TODAY she had been contacted by people around the world — from places like India, China, all over Europe — and they had said they were inspired by her.
“I’ve been amazed by the response,” she said.
A city council member from Minneapolis, Phillipe Cunningham, even tweeted her saying they had been moved to take action by her words.
“Thank you for sharing this story,” Cunningham wrote. “I’m a City Councilmember and it inspired me to start a volunteer program for community members to go grocery shopping and run errands for elderly neighbors.”
As an elite runner training for the Olympic trials, Mehra said prior to this experience, she had been really focused on how the health crisis was impacting her.
“I was so wound up with like, what’s going to happen to my track season or the Olympic trials … and then I witnessed this couple that’s afraid to go in a grocery store,” she said. “I realized that there are people in our communities that are so much more adversely affected by this than I am and many of us are.”
She said she knew most people in her situation would’ve done the same thing and added she hoped that was the lesson people take away from her story.
“Not everyone has someone to turn to,” she said. “So be there and take care of them.”