DEAR HARRIETTE: On my morning commute, there is a blind man with a service dog. We have never spoken, but we have been getting on the same train for the past couple of weeks now. A couple of days ago, there were two women making rude comments about how his service dog smelled. Another woman chimed in on how the dog was touching her on the packed train. The three of them continued as if the man was not even there. I wanted to stand up for him, but had no idea if it would be appropriate for me to do. The man is probably thirty years my senior and has a functioning job. He did not say anything to the women, and neither did I. Should I have said something? -- Tongue-tied, Queens, New York
DEAR TONGUE-TIED: Yes, you should have spoken up. This is an instance where it's better to be an ally than a bystander who allows someone to be disrespectful to another. You could have said, "It can be hard to ride a packed train with lots of people and sometimes animals, but that doesn't give you the right to be disrespectful to this man. I see him all the time, heading to work just like the rest of us. Please stop saying such rude things. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone talked about you like that."
I realize that it takes a lot of courage to say that, but if you can do so in a calm, compassionate tone, you can potentially put out the fire rather than stoke the flame.