The story of a Regina construction worker who paused a moment to buy a sandwich and some cookies for a homeless man at a coffee shop is winning emotion-filled 'likes' on Facebook.

James Free, a worker with a local renovation company, was at a Tim Hortons shop for his meal when he saw the homeless man. Free said he recognized the man from previous visits to the restaurant and thought he looked a bit down on his luck.

James Free

James Free says if someone can spare a few minutes and a few dollars to help a homeless person with a meal, they should do it. (CBC)

"I asked him if he'd like to have a coffee and … a bite to eat," Free said. "He was sort of reluctant but accepted."

Free said he bought the man a sandwich, some cookies and a coffee.

"As I was leaving I left this stuff with him and I tried to be very discreet so nobody would notice," he said. "[I] just wanted to be able to reach out and be helpful a little bit."

The modest gesture was noticed and an account was published to Facebook.

Emotional Facebook post

It included a detail about what happened after Free left the restaurant.

"What that man didn't see was after he left, the homeless man sat quietly eating with tears streaming down his face," the Facebook post, published Wednesday, said. "My four-year old asked, 'Why is he crying for his sandwich?'

"It was a difficult reply, (through my tears) as I told my son that he was hungry and someone had given him the sandwich as a gift and it made him so happy he cried."

Free said word of the Facebook observation made it's way to him, and he was moved.

"I was quite taken with it," he said. "It choked me up a little bit. I had no idea."

The story has been shared on Facebook by almost 2,000 people.

"I think the reason people were so taken with it was because it shows compassion is still out there," Free said, adding he believes everyone has it in them to do what he did.

"It cost less than $10 and took less than 10 minutes," Free said. "Anybody that can spare that to make somebody's day better, or their week better — who knows — I think that they should do it."

Rebecca Cochrane

Rebecca Cochrane, of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Regina, says buying a person in need a meal is a good idea and is often better than giving money. (CBC)

CBC News spoke to Rebecca Cochrane, of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Regina, who said buying street people meals is a good idea and often better than giving money as cash is often used to buy alcohol or drugs and many street people struggle with addictions.

CBC News also spoke to Lyle Stoney, who has been living on the streets for two years. He said it can be difficult to get by.

"You have to find ways to survive on your own," Stoney said, adding he has at times been given a free meal.

"The person just makes you feel, you know, that someone cares about you."

With files from CBC's Samanda Brace