01/31/2013 08:28 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

A Small Town's Small Actions for the Common Good

Sometimes people actually try to put aside their differences.

I just read a heartening story about a Kentucky town that, despite its overwhelming support for the other candidate in the last presidential election, echoed the inspiring words of President Obama's second inaugural address, in which he said, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law." You see, the town of Vicco, Ky., has just passed a law banning discrimination against anyone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. As Dan Barry wrote in The New York Times, this makes the town "the smallest municipality in Kentucky, and possibly the country, to enact such an ordinance." Barry adds:

[T]he Vicco Commission's 3-to-1 vote this month not only anticipated a central theme in the president's second inaugural speech ... it also presented a legislative model to the nation's partisan-paralyzed Capitol, 460 miles away.

You discuss, you find consensus, you vote, and you move on, explained the mayor, Johnny Cummings. "You have to get along."

We've come through a bitter presidential campaign. We've endured a holiday marred by the horrific deaths of 26 people at a school shooting in Connecticut (not to mention other gun-related deaths around the country). We're subjected to reports of rancorous hearings regarding gun control, fiscal responsibility and immigration. And yet we're treated to a story that shows that people can put aside differences and find the humanity in other people.

Did this action out of Kentucky come from nowhere?

Not exactly. We're living in an era when, despite political wrangling, people actually do want to work together for the common good. This is, in short, a "we" cycle, as opposed to a "me" cycle. The current cycle started about a decade ago and should continue for another 30 years. The terms come from the book Pendulum, which I wrote with Roy H. Williams. In Pendulum we argue that society moves back and forth on a metaphorical pendulum, shifting from an individualistic, hero-worshiping, look-at-me-I'm-special frame of mind (such as we saw in the 1960s through the excesses of the 1980s and 1990s) to one that's driven more by small actions, community mindedness, fellow feeling and cooperation. Like now, actually. We've based our findings on exploring literature, politics, history and arts throughout 3,000 years of Western civilization, and we've managed to find a pretty consistent swing of this societal pendulum.

So although what happened in Vicco, Ky., seems as if it could be an aberration in our current divisive age, maybe it's actually not. Bad news makes for better headlines. Luckily we can find the occasional story that speaks to what most of us really think: It's better to work together than not.