Amid the fears sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, a good deed by Bend professional runner Rebecca Mehra about helping an elderly couple buy groceries has gone viral on Twitter.
Mehra, 25, tweeted Wednesday afternoon about buying groceries for an elderly couple who felt too vulnerable to go inside the grocery store. By 8 a.m. Thursday, the first of the tweets had 50,000 likes and had been retweeted over 10,000 times. By 1:30 p.m., it had more than doubled to over 160,000 likes and 31,000 retweets.
Mehra was heading into the Safeway on Century Drive in Bend on Wednesday when she heard someone call out, “Hey, hey, you, you, hey,” she said. “I kind of turned around, and I see this woman waving at me from her car, so I went over to talk to her.
“She was like, ‘I’ve been sitting here a while, and my husband and I, we’re in our 80s, and we’re a little nervous to go in the grocery store. We’ve thought about it. I don’t know if it’s a good idea. We don’t have family around to help us out. Would you mind, if you have the time, getting our groceries for us.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, no big deal.’”
Mehra took the money and list, which had basic necessities on it — including toilet paper.
“Everyone’s looking for toilet paper. It was crazy, actually, being in Safeway yesterday,” Mehra said. “There was nothing in the (cleaning) section. There was no hand soap. There was no toilet paper.”
But she did find others being helpful, including a woman who pointed out where the two remaining bars of hand soap were located.
“There were only two left, and she gave me one of them,” Mehra said. “I did feel a sense of confusion and nerves in the store, but also a sense of … we’re all in this. We all have to take care of each other.”
When she was done shopping, she loaded the groceries into the couple’s vehicle “and went on my merry way” without exchanging names or any other info, she said.
In addition to Twitter, Mehra shared the incident on Facebook and Instagram, encouraging her friends and followers to be helpful when they can.
In the fourth and last of the tweets, Mehra wrote, “I know it’s a time of hysteria and nerves, but offer to help anyone you can. Not everyone has people to turn to.”
Mehra moved to Bend in September 2018 to join Littlewing Athletics, a local running team coached by fellow professional runner Lauren Fleshman. Mehra quickly became involved in Bend politics and Mayor Sally Russell’s successful campaign for office. Along with running professionally, Mehra works part-time as an assistant to Russell, which includes writing communications and managing her social media presence. She also works for Stanford Athletics, her alma mater, doing project-based programming.
“The cool thing about what she did yesterday is that’s just who she is,” Russell said. “I just hope our entire community, and our entire world, steps up the way Rebecca did. It’s heartfelt, generous acts like this that make our community special, and also that will get us through this really difficult moment in time.”
Mehra, an 800-meter and 1,500-meter runner, is “praying for the Olympic trials, which I hope will still happen in June in Eugene,” she said. Mehra may also have to postpone the Courage to Run 5K, a May 2 race in Bend she’s helping to host for a national organization.
“I was putting it together and getting local sponsors and getting really excited about it, and I just got an email today from the national organization (saying), ‘Hey, maybe you should postpone it,’” she said. “There’s a lot in flux right now.”
Meanwhile, Mehra’s tweets about her good deed continue to go viral.
“It’s just a feel-good thing, I guess, right at the right time,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing that most people I know, 100 percent would have done the same thing. It’s just that I was in the right place at the right time.”